Simple Fresh Lima Beans, and Braised Radishes

Well, an unexpected but welcome benefit of having kittens is I can go to the Saturday farmer’s market. If that seems like an incongruous statement, let me explain. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to sleep through the farmer’s market on Saturdays. Which has been a bit frustrating this summer because it’s also been hard for me to get to the Wednesday market I went to last year because I’ve been going into work earlier in order to swim every day after work. The kittens, however, don’t share my love of sleeping in on weekends and feel 5 a.m. is an appropriate time to arise. I guess when you’re a kitten every day is exciting as Christmas morning is to a 6-year old. So although I obviously didn’t get up at 5 a.m., I was up early enough yesterday to go to the farmer’s market. And immediately kicked myself for not going prior weeks, because it was awesome.

One thing I bought was a pint of fresh lima beans. Which may also seem incongruous considering I hate lima beans. Or rather, I used to. I hated them as a child, although I was far from a picky eater and ate pretty much everything else. Then last year I made myself Garlicky Chipotle Lima Beans and loved them. So that proved I liked dried limas. But what about fresh? It seemed time to find out.

There is a lot of conflicting information about lima beans on the internet. According to some people, they aren’t lima beans at all but butter beans. And some people say to cook them for 10 to 15 minutes, whereas other insist on a couple of hours – yes, even for fresh. It seems fresh limas aren’t very common to begin with as nearly every recipe calls for dried or frozen. So I decided to cook them simply, as I prefer my side dishes anyway, and let their lima flavor shine through to either wow or disgust me. Fortunately for me, they did the former.

Simple Fresh Lima Beans

1 1/2 cups fresh shelled lima beans
water to cover
1 Tbsp vegan powdered bouillon
salt and pepper to taste (I used smoked Maldon)
drizzle of olive oil

Put the shelled lima beans in a small, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water.

Bring to a boil and add the bouillon, salt, and pepper.

Boil for 15 to 30 minutes. I tasted them at 15 minutes and they were about done, but the rest of the meal wasn’t, so I let them simmer for another 15 minutes, after which they tasted pretty much the same and didn’t feel much more cooked (somewhat surprisingly).

Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

I also bought a pint of radishes at the market, being on a bit of a radish kick. I wanted to pickle some of them, but also wanted to try something new with some as well. I got the idea to braise them from this Rachel Ray recipe. I read that cooked radishes taste like mild Brussels sprouts (yum!), but I thought they tasted like artichoke hearts. What they did NOT taste like was radishes. Unfortunately, my insistence they tasted nothing like radishes did not convince Mark to eat any. I forced him to eat a tiny bite and he made one of those awful faces he makes when he feels tortured by food. Oh well, more for me. I heated up some frozen corn for his second vegetable.

Braised Radishes

1 cup radishes, trimmed and halved
1 cup vegan stock (vegetable or “chicken”)
2 tsp white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt (I used smoked Maldon)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Trim the radishes and cut in half.

Put all of the ingredients in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender.


Here are both dishes, served with some fried seitan with a mustard sauce:


Comments (7)

Quick Pickled Radishes

I’m trying to think of a clever or at least remotely interesting intro for this recipe but I’m drawing a blank. It’s pickled radish. It was a quick refrigerator pickle. It is good. Sorry, that’s all I have!

Quick Pickled Radishes

I used “normal” (for this continent) red radishes but you could also chop up a daikon and use that. Adapted from Pete & Teri’s Next Big Adventure.

1 bunch red radishes, halved or quartered depending on size (or part of a daikon, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
rice vinegar to cover radishes (about a cup)
6 drops stevia (or about 1 1/2 tsp sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Remove the leaves from the radishes then halve or quarter them depending on their size. Place in a small jar.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the jar.

Put the lid on the jar and shake until salt is dissolved.

Refrigerate for 48 hours. Actually, they should be ready after 24 hours according to the recipe I based this off of, but I didn’t try mine for two days, so that’s what I’m vouching for.

Oh, was the focus of that photo supposed to be the radishes? I’m sorry.

Is this any better?

Out of the brine …

… and into my mouth! I loved these. I love radishes to begin with but even non-lovers of radishes may like these, if they like pickles. The spicy radish flavor is made milder, but the pickling gives them a nice sour taste. They remain crunchy. This is a nice, fresh tasting pickle that went well with a version of spicy tofu teriyaki.

Mark saw them sitting out last night and claimed they looked like pickled pig’s feet. He refused to try them. Sissy.

While Torticia was helping me with my radish photo shoot, the day I feared would come sooner or later arrived.

Gomez discovered Mark’s chess set …

… and decided it was an interactive cat toy.

Goodbye, pawn.

Screw pickled pig’s feet, this is far more fascinating!

Um, have I mentioned that I love these kittens?

Comments (9)

Smoky Pink Beans, Fun Slaw, and Fried Potatoes

Today marks the first time in a couple of months I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen. I baked bread, made three different kinds of soda, pickled some radishes, made ice cream, and made a big dinner. Although I wanted to make a nice Sunday meal, I had no idea what to make. I finally decided I wanted to use up some dried beans, so I did an “extended quick soak” on some pink beans and just sort of went from there. I had also bought a “rainbow slaw” (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots) mix I wanted to incorporate into the meal. Here’s what I did:

Mayo-less Fun Slaw

Mark hates mayonnaise, made with eggs or otherwise, so I wanted to make a mayo-free slaw he would enjoy. This was quick and easy.

6 oz. “rainbow slaw” (a pre-packaged mix of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots)
3 Tbsp chopped scallions
2 Tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Place the vinegar, oil, mustard and salt into a small mixing bowl.

Whisk well.

Toss with the slaw and scallions.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Smoky Pink Beans

2 1/4 cup dried pink beans
2 small onions, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
vegan broth (I used “chicken”-flavored) to cover beans by 2 inches
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp salt (I used smoked Maldon)

Soak the beans overnight in cold water, or quick soak by boiling for two minutes, then removing from heat and soaking for an hour. Drain.

Place all ingredients but the salt in a pressure cooker if you have one. Pressure cook for 12 minutes then quick release if using a pressure cooker, otherwise, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beans are soft. Stir in the salt after the beans are soft.

When my beans were done, I still had a lot of broth, so I brought it to a steady boil and boiled what I could off. I eventually got tired of waiting and wanted the beans to be soupier so I stirred in about 1/4 tsp xantham gum. You don’t need to do that, however. Break up the onions with the back of a spoon before serving.

Fried Potatoes

2 lbs potatoes, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp flaked salt (I used the smoked Maldon again)
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes for about five minutes, then drain. Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet, then add the onions, peppers, salt, oregano, and cayenne and black peppers; saute until onions are soft. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown. I deglazed the pan with a triple-strength mixture of Vegeta and water for extra flavor.

And here is everything together, served with brown rice.

Mark liked this a lot; he had two huge servings of the beans, which he thoroughly doused in Tabasco. There are plenty of leftovers, which I imagine will only improve with age.

And now it is time for a heartwarming tale. One morning a few weeks ago my manager and I had to go downtown for three back-to-back meetings. As we drove into the city, I warned him that I was going to be very cranky by the time the meetings were over because they were interfering with my normal lunch time and I’m not pleasant to be around if I don’t eat at regular intervals. My manager is a very good guy and when the meetings were over and we were heading back to the office, he wanted to know if I was okay or if I’d like to stop for lunch. I noticed him looking at a hot dog stand as he asked this, though, and I said, “that’s a hot dog stand, what the hell would I get there? You think they’re going to have vegan hot dogs at a hot dog stand?!”, as if he were totally off his rocker. Well, to my immense surprise, on Friday I came across this post on DC Vegan. It seems some hot dog stands in DC DO in fact have vegan hot dogs and not only that, the one we passed is one of them (it was the third on that list). Frankly, I’m flabbergasted. But that also made my month. This year has been a lot of things so far, good and bad, but I’ll tell you what: it is a GREAT year to be vegan. I FEEL SO NORMAL! I’ve been vegan for 12 years and when I started I never dreamt I’d be able to order a hot dog from a hot dog stand. That’s just…amazing.

You know what else is amazing?

This guy!

And this girl!

Doesn’t Gomez look a little evil in this picture?

But he’s not evil! He’s a sweet, wonderful, lovable, adorable, amazing little boy!

It’s really amazing that we are actually watching their personalities form. Sure, they already had very distinct personalities when we got them a week ago, but they are changing in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. Gomez is FAR less shy than he was when he got here (I’m not even sure the word shy even remotely describes him any longer), and they are both even more affectionate than they were a week ago. They constantly switch between which one is dominant. They are learning from one another. Every day – every hour, even – I learn something new about them. It’s so weird, yet exciting, to have cats I don’t know better than I know myself (after living with Tigger and Brachtune each for 16 years, I could anticipate their every move). Torticia is sitting on my lap as I type this, purring like a machine and licking my wrist: my plan to make lap cats out of them is going well!

Mark and I are both wildly in love with these kittens. I don’t know how a person could not be, honestly.

Comments (6)

Creamless Cream of Asparagus Soup

Monday and Wednesday nights I swim. I generally eat a light meal a little while before so I don’t get hungry, but when I get home around 9, I usually need another light meal – and fast. I wasn’t too hungry tonight, but I did want to make Mark something and have something for myself for lunch tomorrow, so this is what I made. I wasn’t planning to post it, so no preparatory photos, but as he stood spooning it out of the pot and into his mouth, Mark exclaimed (somewhat surprised, it seemed), “This is really good – you have to post it!” So here it is.

Creamless Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 bunch asparagus, tops trimmed off and reserved, ugly bottoms removed and discarded, remainder chopped
2 Tbsp vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
sherry, for deglazing (optional)
4 cups vegan broth
2 medium potatoes or 6 baby potatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 sprig fresh if you have it)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a few shakes Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix or vegan parmesan (optional)

Heat the margarine in a soup pot and add the onions. Cook until translucent, then add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Deglaze the pot with sherry (I used cream sherry), or a little broth if necessary. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then add the asparagus tips. Boil for a minute or two until tender then remove with tongs and set aside. Add the rest of the asparagus, potatoes, thyme and pepper, bring to a boil again, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for half an hour or until potatoes are very tender. Blend in batches or with an immersion blender. Stir in the uncheese mix if using. Garnish with the reserved tips.

This went over very well …

… although it did turn Mark into a pirate.

Comments (19)

Japanese Green Beans and Tempeh

Mark requested sushi rice – just sushi rice – for dinner tonight, but I of course insisted on adding a vegetable and protein to the rice. I did want to keep it very simple though, as I haven’t felt like cooking much this weekend. So here’s what I did:

Simple Japanese Green Beans

8 oz French-style green beans (or regular green beans)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Toast the sesame seeds over a medium flame until they are light brown and smell sesame-y. I’m using a tiny cast iron pot my mother-in-law gave me (because she knows I love cast iron).

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the green beans. Cook French-style green beans for 2 minutes; fatter beans for maybe 3 minutes: you want them crisp-tender.

Whisk together the soy sauce and mirin. I like using Asian tea cups for tiny mixing jobs.

When green beans are just cooked, drain.

Toss green beans with soy sauce mixture and sesame seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I don’t think tempeh is very big in Japanese cooking, but I decided to give it a Japanese twist to serve with Mark’s sushi rice. Here’s what I did:

Japanese-style Tempeh

8 oz tempeh
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp miso
2″ ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, pressed or smashed
several shakes shichimi togarashi (Japanese “seven spice” seasoning)

Whisk together all ingredients but tempeh; set aside.

Chop the tempeh: cut into fourths, then slice each fourth in half lengthwise …

… then slice each eighth into four strips.

I managed to forget to take a picture of the tempeh marinating, but pour the marinade over the tempeh in a shallow bowl and let sit for at least 10 minutes. I did this first then made the green beans above. Drain the tempeh, reserving the marinade. (I just picked the tempeh out of the marinade.)

Heat some oil in a hot cast iron skillet (I used olive oil with a bit of sesame), then add the tempeh strips.

Fry until golden on all sides.

Spoon about 3 tablespoons of marinade over the tempeh and stir. I also added a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.

This was simple and quick, but pretty salty, as is a lot of Japanese food. And tempeh seems to soak salt right up. So you may want to use low-sodium soy sauce or try reducing the amount I called for, depending on your salt tolerance.

Here is Mark demonstrating how much he loves sushi rice. He’s eating it straight out of the rice cooker, off the rice paddle.

Comments (8)

“Beef” and Barley Stew

Northern Virginia has been suffering from winter temperatures for just over a week and I’m already completely sick of it. Today was cold, rainy, gray, overcast, cold, wet, chilly, cold, and basically just not hospitable. I’ve been threatening to move to Australia. I dealt with the miserable weather the only way I know how, which is by making stew. Here’s what I made:

“Beef” and Barley Stew

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
6 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
2 tsp Marmite
3 bay leaves
2 cups vegan “beef”: beef-style seitan, TVP chunks, tempeh, etc., chopped into bite-sized pieces if necessary
1/2 cup hulled barley
2 huge carrots, chunked
1 cup potatoes, chopped
1 cup pearl onions
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked lima beans
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 tsp thyme
freshly ground ground pepper and salt, to taste

Prep the ingredients: chunk the carrots (I like large chunks of carrot), chop the potatoes, garlic, and “beef” (if necessary). Cook the lima beans (I used dried limas and cooked them in the pressure cooker). Bring some water to a boil, add the pearl onions, cook for 5 to 7 minutes, drain, them pop out of their skins.

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, then add the flour and mix. Cook for two minutes.

Slowly add the broth. Since I was using bouillon cubes, I just added the water, then added the bouillon cubes once it came to a boil later.

Stir or whisk as you continue to add the water or broth to keep lumps from forming.

Bring to a boil, add bouillon cubes if necessary, Kitchen Bouquet, Marmite, bay leaves, barley, potatoes, and carrots.

Reduce heat and simmer half an hour. Add the remaining ingredients except frozen veggies.

Simmer another 20 minutes, then add frozen veggies and adjust seasonings. Cook for another couple of minutes, until frozen veggies are warmed.

Serve, preferably with crusty bread.

In non-food related news, I am free of the tyranny of iTunes! Not only am I at long last completely managing my iPod in Linux, but I converted all the DRM files I’d purchased from iTunes to mp3. Sweet, sweet freedom! I never have to look at iTunes again, or Windows for that matter (at home anyway). I know this has nothing to do with food, or even cats, but I’m just so ecstatic about it I can’t help but gloat.

I haven’t posted in a while, I know, but I have been taking photos of some of my meals, so I’ll do a sort of conglomeration post this week, as well as a post on real ginger ale, which after three failed batches I have finally perfected and I’m super excited about it. To help make up for my lack of posts lately, here is Brachtune helping me make reusable gift bags.

And here she is simply being beautiful, which is what she does best:

Comments (9)

Mustardy Creamed Onions

I don’t generally spend that much time on side dishes; I generally prefer my veggies as close to their natural state as possible and usually serve them steamed or lightly dressed in some manner. Sometimes, though, a recipe for a fussier side dish strikes my fancy. Here is my take on these Gratineed Mustard Creamed Onions from Epicurious. As it was just me and Mark, I halved the recipe and rather than broiling it, finished it off in the toaster oven so I didn’t have to heat the oven up for just a couple minutes of broiling.

Mustardy Creamed Onions

1 lb pearl onions
1 Tbsp vegan margarine
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 1/2 Tbsp cream sherry
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp grainy mustard (I used the balsamic mustard from Jes at Cupcake Punk.)
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (I used white pepper)
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan or Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add some salt, and then cook the onions (in their skins) until soft (the original recipe says 25 to 30 minutes; I think it was closer to 20 minutes for me).

Drain the onions.

Allow the onions to cool. Meanwhile, measure the remaining ingredients. (My milk is brown because I whisked the sherry into it.)

Melt the margarine over medium heat, then whisk in the flour, cooking for a minute or two.

Slowly whisk in the liquids, then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened, whisking frequently.

Meanwhile, pop the onions out of their skins.

Whisk the mustards, nutmeg, and salt and pepper into the sauce.

Add the onions and cook another 5 minutes.

Transfer to a small, shallow baking dish and top with vegan parmesan or uncheese.

Bake in toaster oven at highest heat for about 5 minutes or until bubbly and browned.


This was good, despite it being a little annoying having to deal with the onions, which were a little too soft to pop out of their skins as easily as I remember it being when I’ve only cooked them for 5 minutes or so. Mark eats a lot faster than me and after he finished his, he was stealing onions from my plate before finally going to get seconds for himself. I will make this again, perhaps even for Thanksgiving. I might also experiment with different kinds of “cheese” for the topping.

Miss Brachtune has had a wonderful weekend, I must say. Uncle Fortinbras came down from Baltimore Thursday afternoon to go to a concert with us and stayed through to today. While Mark and I were at work Friday, Brachtune sat on Uncle Fortinbras’ lap all day, Saturday she spent all day sitting on Mark’s lap while he was working in his office, and today she spent sleeping on me while Fortinbras and I recovered from a late night by watching The Office all day. I don’t know what she’s going to do tomorrow when she finds herself without a lap for most of the day. She’ll probably spend most of it in the surrogate lap – it’s a pet bed I fitted with a heated cushion – I rigged up for her. Here are some pictures I took yesterday of her looking exceedingly cute in it.

Comments (10)

Bean Curd with Fermented Black Beans

I don’t know how it happened, but it’s October. I keep thinking it’s, like, July. Many vegan bloggers will be celebrating October through Vegan MoFo, whereas I will probably be doing a Vegan NoMoFo this October. It’s just going to be busy. Fortunately most of my busyness is related to October being the best month of the year: my birthday, Smark’s birthday, our anniversary, Halloween, and this year, a trip to San Francisco for me! I’ll be lucky if I can make a post once a week, let alone once a day, this month. I did manage to whip up a post tonight, though!

I don’t know if it’s because the days are getting shorter – I hate driving home from work in the dark – but I’ve been feeling more and more pressured to get home and get dinner on the table earlier, while not bothering to drag myself out of bed any earlier in order to make that possible. (It’s too cold in the mornings to get up!) Dinner, therefore, ends up being less creative and less good (and less blog-worthy). Tonight I knew I was going to use some of my homemade tofu in a stir fry and planned to stop by Super H and pick up some exotic Chinese veggies – gai lan or something of that sort – to accompany it, but once en route (hence en traffic), I realized I didn’t feel like going a couple of miles out of my way to go to Super H and decided to use up the boring old veggies I had in the fridge. And the following was born:

Bean Curd with Fermented Black Beans

Fermented (or preserved) black beans are one of my favorite ingredients and are available at most Asian grocery stores. They are actually soy beans (not black beans), and are rather salty. There really isn’t a substitute for them that I can think of, although if you can’t find them in bean form, you can probably find black bean paste or sauce, which are fermented black beans that have been mushed up into paste or sauce form.

2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper (any colour), chopped
10 oz extra firm tofu (preferably homemade), chopped
thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated or minced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp fermented black beans
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or even sake)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1 Tbsp chili garlic paste
1/2 cup vegan broth, any flavor
2 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp cold water

Place the fermented black beans, wine, soy sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl and stir. Set aside.

Prep all the veggies and tofu.

Heat a wok over medium high heat and add some peanut oil. When it’s hot, add the carrots and stir fry for a minute.

Add the garlic and ginger, fry for a few seconds.

Add the celery and stir fry for a minute or two.

Add the bell pepper and stir fry another minute or two.

Add the tofu and chili paste; stir fry for yet another minute or two (the advantage of making your own tofu is you can make it as firm as you like so it won’t crumble when stir-fried).

Pour in the fermented black bean mixture and stir.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.

Whisk together the cornstarch and cold water, pour into the wok and stir as it thickens the broth and coats the veggies and tofu.

Serve with brown rice.

This wasn’t the most exciting meal in the world, but it was fast, used up stuff from the fridge, and is healthy. Mine came out just on the cusp of saltiness I can tolerate, but that’s because I used about 3 tablespoons of the fermented black beans (I reduced it to 2 tablespoons in the recipe). You can rinse the beans before using to reduce the saltiness. I usually don’t bother, but I think the next time I use so much of them, I’ll either rinse them or reduce/eliminate the soy sauce.

I visited the parental homestead on Saturday and my mom gave me a framed photo of my great-grandmother, the one to whom I’m nearly certain my beloved cast iron skillet used to belong, and which I hung on the kitchen wall so she can be near her skillet:

I really like the homey atmosphere it adds to the kitchen and I’m still really tickled to have her skillet. Unfortunately, Mark keeps demanding that I serve him coffee like an “obedient wife”, as she’s doing to my great-grandfather. (My response to Mark is not fit for a public blog.)

Comments (10)

A little about Szechuan eggplant, a lot about nothing

I’m popping in to say hi because although I don’t have much to share with you, I may not have a chance to post for a few days. So I took photos of the Szechuan Eggplant that Jes posted yesterday and I made for dinner tonight:

I liked it, but Mark emphatically did not. Actually, when I told him I was making eggplant for dinner, he promptly started preparing himself some soy nuggets, exclaiming he hated eggplant and wasn’t going to touch it. He did get very brave and snatched a piece off my plate to try…and immediately spit it out into the sink. So it MAY not be the dish for eggplant haters. Since I was cooking for just myself, I was glad how quick it was. I halved everything but the garlic and the Szechuan peppers, and since I didn’t have scallions, put about 1/4 white onion, chopped, in the wok about a minute before the eggplant.

In the same post, Jes mentioned that she was finding Roanoke a little too suburban for her tastes and that she often needs to get away to nature. Which reminded me of a “hike” I’d taken just the day before here in Northern Virginia. (I put hike in quotation marks because I realized I wasn’t having to put much effort into it when I came across a couple pushing their baby along the trail in a stoller.) Here’s Northern Virginia’s idea of nature, my friends:

That’s SO typical. Tree decimation is rampant in these parts.

In the middle of the woods, I came across this:

I feel like I should know what it is?

It’s also sort of discouraging when I’m tempted to listen to my iPod on the “hike” with the sole intent of drowning out the sounds of that delightful NoVA traffic I love so much.

On the upside, here are a few shots of nature not looking quite so infringed upon:

In cat news, Brachtune ran away Saturday night. Now, don’t be alarmed. She’s back home, safe and sound. But it was pretty rocky for about 20 minutes there after I finished making my last post here and realized afterwards that it was strange Brachtune hadn’t been on my lap while I was typing it, her chin on my hand as I type, drooling all over me and the keyboard. I searched the house and became a bit frantic when we realized she must be outside. (I later determined she must have snuck out about an hour earlier when I’d stepped outside for a moment.) It was dark, so Mark took the flashlight and started off looking for her (he later told me he thought about way Tigger would have run and went in the opposite direction), while I stayed near the house looking in the side yard, where she likes to sit and eat grass when she’s on her leash and we’re on the patio supervising her.

Not having any luck, I went back inside and searched even more thoroughly, getting a bit upset because if she was in the house and hadn’t heard me calling her, something was very wrong. Just as I was about to burst into tears with worry, I heard the back door open and a familiar meow: Mark had found her across the street, looking scared. Now, I don’t know what in the world could possibly have possessed a 17-year old cat, who probably has cancer, who’s wasting away (she’d down to 5 pounds), who’s currently battling a urinary tract infection, who is the sweetest little bundle of love and affection, and who prior to this year was too scared to try to go outside and if she ever worked up the nerve, would go about a foot and run back in terrified, to suddenly decide – in the middle of the night – that she wants to run away from home. She’s been wanting to go out a lot lately, but the vet said she’s not allowed, even on her leash, until she’s recovered from this latest infection and can get her shots. So we have to keep an eye on her when we’re going in and out, but I never thought she’d do this, and certainly never thought she’d take off across the street! Fortunately we don’t get much traffic in our neighborhood and none of our wild friends like the neighborhood raccoon were around. And fortunately Mark was able to find her when he did. But I think she must be crazy! And the next day? She was on her hind legs, pawing at the back door, reaching for the handle, howling piteously, demanding to go back out. Despite the fact she must have been terrified. Who is this cat???

Comments (8)

Way-Too-Fast Vegetable Risotto

I didn’t learn to cook, or even really appreciate food, until I became vegan. Things were a little different back then and it seemed a bit harder than it does now, but I did live mere blocks away from a great heath food store that stocked all the weird things I suddenly needed, like nutritional yeast. (Golden Temple sadly closed its doors a couple of years after I went vegan and I was crushed.) I don’t come from a family of adventurous eaters, so it wasn’t until I began cooking that I ate a lot of things for the first time, including some things that are often vegetarian or vegan in nature. Believe me, going vegan made me a MUCH more prolific eater: for every single thing I stopped eating, I started eating ten new things. Which is why I have to laugh at the “what DO you eat?” question.

It may seem astonishing, but risotto is one of the things I don’t think I ever had until I learned how to cook it myself. And I remember making it the first time: standing in my basement kitchen, reading a printout from the internet – this was before laptops were (in my book) affordable so I actually used this “printer” device – stirring constantly, adding veggie stock in small doses. It took about 45 minutes of constant stirring. The result was delicious, but I lived alone and much as I liked my new hobby of cooking, it seemed a little labour-intensive just to feed myself. So although I thought risotto tasted great, it didn’t go into heavy rotation at Chez Renae.

Years later, I got a pressure cooker and, to learn how to use it, Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. There are a lot of great things I discovered about pressure cookers, many of them through that book, but one of the most important is that using a pressure cooker to make risotto is brilliant! I’m not kidding when I say that the risotto I made tonight was done in far too little time. I normally expect dinner to take me 20 to 30 minutes to prepare; actually, up to an hour. I’m really perfectly happy spending an hour making dinner, even on weeknights. But I’m often doing several other things at the same time: cleaning up, medicating the cat, doing other chores, while things are cooking. Risotto in a pressure cooker takes 5 minutes (with no stirring!) It throws my schedule out of whack! Tonight I needed to throw together a simple tossed salad and wash some dishes while dinner cooked and I barely had time to do either. If I hadn’t already had salad dressing made up, the risotto would have been waiting for me before I was even near ready for it.

This recipe is almost exactly Lorna Sass’s Risotto with Saffron and Seasonal Vegetables. I was going to pull it together without even looking at a recipe, because I wanted to use some of my farmer’s market bounty, but I needed to double check the ratio of rice to liquid, so I consulted the book and discovered what I planned to do was nearly exactly the same as the recipe in the book. Which is no surprise: I’ve made it several times before, and it’s good so I see no need to try to improve upon it. (Sass calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked vegetables, any type. I’ve specified what I used, but know that anything will work.)

Too-Fast Vegetable Risotto

1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups risotto-style rice
4 cups vegan stock or broth
large pinch saffron
1 small crown broccoli, chopped into florets
1/2 large zucchini, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup orange cherry tomatoes, halved
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Prep all the veggies. Don’t wait until the risotto is cooking to do this – it goes too fast. Chop them before you begin.

Put some olive oil into the pressure cooker over medium high heat and add the onions, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the rice.

Add the saffron and stock, then put the lid on and bring up to pressure.

Once it’s reached pressure, drop the heat to low or medium low and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the veggies. I nuked the broccoli for 45 seconds, sauted the zucchini and bell pepper for 2 or 3 minutes, and stirred the tomatoes in after removing the skillet from the heat. You can really cook them however you desire.

Release the pressure in the pressure cooker via the “quick” method (i.e., run the cooker under cold water) and remove the lid.

Return the cooker to medium low heat. If it is still brothy, simmer for a few minutes until thickened (I have never needed to do this). When it’s the desired consistency, stir in the veggies and let them warm through, then stir in the lemon juice.

Serve immediately.

Here’s the salad I made; nearly all the ingredients were from the farmer’s market. I first tossed what I thought were two salad servings into a large bowl, then when a hungry Mark came prowling through the kitchen, offered him his salad as a first course before the risotto was ready. He pounced on the idea but took the entire salad! So I had to make a second one for myself. But I don’t complain about people wanting to eat salad.

Comments (8)

Next entries » · « Previous entries