June 2009


I can die a happy woman. I have, for the first time ever, completely made up my own recipe inspired off of fresh, local produce. Usually I buy something and then run to the books or the internet and try to figure out what to make with it. Not this time. Nope nope. It’s only a sandwich, but oh my word is it the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten, EVER.

Emory University holds a small local farmers market every Tuesday from 2-6 which is nice because I get off at 5:30 and can usually snag some end-of-the-day deals, but also nice because it’s on my walk home from work. Today the pickin’s were slim, but I did snag a huge bunch of broccoli greens (this time I’ll post pictures because broccoli greens are definitely not raab), 2 zucchinis, 6 jalapeños (ideas anyone?), a huge bunch of basil (pesto!), and a green tomato for $8. Not too shabby. The bulk of the cost was the broccoli greens ($4), but definitely worth it because they aren’t easy to find. The seller was impressed that I knew what to do with them.

Anyways, so the green tomato is the point of this whole post. I’m a sucker for fried green tomatoes. There’s just nothing like a plate of fried green tomatoes, a nice cold drink (julep), and porch sittin’ on a summer evening. And since dinnertime was right around the corner, I figured why not fry up a tomato for dinner? But fried green tomatoes are just a side dish. In the middle of that thought I noticed the H&F Bread Co. (maker of the best bread in Atlanta) table with sandwich sized ciabattas for $1 each. Cha-ching, I’m making a sandwich.

On the walk home I continue musing about what to do. Fried green tomato and tofu sandwich? Fried green tomato and seitan sandwich? Fried green tomato and I’m not sure what else sandwich? And then I remembered the fat, juicy, perfectly ripe organic red tomato sitting on my window sill. And then I remembered my container of sun dried tomato strips. And then I knew right then and there that I would be making the worlds most amazing sandwich, a trifecta, if you will. Without further ado and without further comment (because I think you can figure out how perfectly this combination is), I present to you The Trifecta aka The World’s Most Amazing Three Tomato Sandwich.

The Trifecta

1 green tomato
1/4 c coarse cornmeal
1/8 c corn flour
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp cajun seasoning
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
paper bag

1 small ciabatta
1/2 ripe red tomato
1 leaf romaine lettuce
1 small handful rehydrated sundried tomatoes
veganaise
whole grain mustard
tabasco sauce

To fry the green tomato:

In a shallow bowl, mix the cornmeal, corn flour, pepper, and cajun seasoning together.

Peel the tomato, then slice into 1/4″ thick slices.

Coat the tomato slices in the cornmeal mixture, then fry over medium heat in the oil until golden on both sides. Place the fried slices in the paper bag and pat the excess oil off.

To make the sandwich:
Slice the ciabatta lengthwise. Spread veganaise on both halves, mustard on one half.

Place the lettuce on the bottom half, then three thin slices of the red tomato. Next layer the fried green tomatoes and a small handful of the sundried tomatoes.

Splash a little (or a lot) tabasco sauce on the inside of the top half. Smoosh the sandwich together, cut in half. Eat before it gets cold.

Makes 1 sandwich.

My whirlwind visit to Roanoke is about half-way through now, and I just got here last night! But it has been wonderful; such a nice break from the crushing city heat. I’ve met my landcouple, Beth and Tom (check out Beth’s amazing blog here), walked around the house, taken pictures of it to send to my future roommates, learned how to take care of the fish in the fish pond, sipped coffee on the front porch while reading The Atlantic Monthly and listening to birds chatter in the bushes, walked the 2 and 1/2 blocks to the village center, eaten an amazing avocado-artichoke heart-tomato-horseradish sandwich at the vegetarian ice cream parlor of cuteness, bought books I shouldn’t have bought at the used bookstore, and in general just become more and more in love with this neighborhood I get to call home for the next ten months. Can it be next month right now?! (I mean August…June’s practically over, how nuts is that??)

Seriously, look at this kitchen!!! Would you not be in love with it too? The stove! The full-sized oven, the griddle in addition to burners! A dishwasher! I am going to cook so many amazing meals in it. Just you wait!

So I couldn’t turn up empty-handed last night and what says “thank you for trusting me with your awesome house while you’re in Boston” better than homemade bread? While I don’t have a garden, my boss at the Beckett Project does and when she gave me a little bunch of fresh rosemary, basil, and marjoram, I knew it would have to go into a loaf. Later that night I chopped the herbs up as finely as I could, used Martha Stewart’s rosemary bread recipe as a base, and mixed it all together in my mixer, let it rise, then baked it. While I’m still no pro at shaping bread, I’m happy with the crumb and the flavor. It’s dense enough to use as sandwich bread, but not too dense. I’d happily eat it dipped in some olive oil. And the combination of rosemary, marjoram, and basil turned out well-balanced with just a hint of each coming though.

Fresh Herb Bread

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water (110 degrees)
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh marjoram, finely chopped
1 1/2 cc plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 c whole wheat flour

Stir together yeast and the warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 7 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup water, the olive oil, sugar, salt, chopped herbs, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, and the whole-wheat flour to bowl. Fit mixer with the dough hook; mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Raise speed to medium-high; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Shape dough into a ball, and transfer to oiled bowl. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough; let rest, covered, 15 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.

Shape into a loaf. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Loosely cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, and let loaves rise slightly in a warm, draft-free spot 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dust loaves with remaining teaspoon all-purpose flour. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

I started my nighttime baking adventures today–bread in the oven, now on to a blog post!

I love you guys. No really, you all provide me with so many great ideas and recipes and you inspire me to go out of my comfort zone. The thing is, I kinda don’t like figs. It’s true. I have distinct memories of my kindergarten friends’ mothers trying to feed me fig newtons and me freaking out. I was a pretty stubborn kid. Now I’m a little more adventurous, but I still don’t gravitate towards dried figs or fresh figs. The last fresh fig I ate was probably five years ago, but the sticky sweet memory of it is burned in my mind and I don’t want to go there again. However, when Ricki posted that amazing orange fig sauce which I put on my RWF bowls I loved it. So now I’ve decided that as long as the fig is hidden inside something amazingly non-figgish, then I’m ok with it. Hence the curried fig salad dressing

The recipe is adapted Liz’s curried apricot salad dressing which is adapted from the Millennium cookbook. Adaptations galore! Overall, I’m impressed with it. It’s still a little sweet for my palate, but I think it’s perfect for a summer afternoon. Creamy and sweet with layers of curry and garam masala pulling through, it’s definitely different in a good way. I think I’m with Liz, creamy tofu-based salad dressings are the way to go! Now I’ve just got to work on putting more in a salad than romaine lettuce and croutons…

Curried Fig Salad Dressing

adapted from Liz

1/4 lb. soft tofu
2 dried figs, soaked well and chopped
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp cardamom
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp cashew butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
enough water to thin

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Store in an airtight container and let cool in fridge for at least 1 hour before using.

It’s time for my weekly lunch post–aren’t you excited?!  I’ve moved on from soup & bread, it’s just too darn hot to turn on the oven and stove for that long!  Instead, I ‘m rolling up some power-packed portobello wraps.  The ease and convenience of these sammies  makes them my new favorite  lunch–I mean, they take only one or two minutes to make and then I just wrap them in foil and toss them in my purse!  Voila, one lunch to-go!  Plus no stove or oven was involved in the production.  Super bonus points. 

My original plan involved tofu of some sort paired with lettuce, tomato, and hummus, but then I was able to pick up discounted portobello caps at Sevananda, the natural foods coop here in Atlanta.  Whenever produce items are past their prime but not spoiled or rotten yet, Sevananda bags it up and marks it down.  It’s a great deal–3 portobello caps cost only $1.50!!!  Since I planned to use them immediately I wasn’t too worried about their not-so-freshness.

I’d been eyeing Ricki’s portobello steaks since she posted the recipe back in October, and while I wasn’t looking for a hearty, filling dish for a cold winter day, I knew that the seasoning of the caps would be perfect for the wrap.  I hate to gloat, but I was right.  I let the caps soak for a little over five hours in the marinade and the end result was ridiculously robust and layered, i.e., ridiculously awesomely good.  The red wine + balsamic + my thrown-together steak spice created a slightly spicy, super herby, juicy portobello.  I used my George Foreman grill to cook them, something I wouldn’t suggest if you’re serving the mushrooms as a main dish (it takes out a lot of the juice), but I thought mine were not too juicy and not too dry as a result, perfect for throwing into wraps (you don’t want the wraps to get squishy). 

Perfect Portobello Wraps

adapted from Diet, Dessert and Dogs

3 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
4.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 c dry red drinking wine
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp dried thyme
3.5 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp. Montreal or Chicago-style steak spice (I used 1/4 tsp of all ingredients listed in this recipe)
salt and pepper, to taste

whole wheat tortillas/gluten-free tortillas
hummus
romaine lettuce
tomatoes

In a large non-reactive (glass or ceramic) casserole dish with a lid, mix together all ingredients but the mushrooms. Lightly score the tops of the mushrooms in a criss-cross pattern. Place the mushrooms top-up on the marinade and swish around so the liquid fills some of the spaces in the underside, then flip over and lay them down with the tops in the marinade. Cover and let marinate at least 4 hours, flipping the “steaks” over occasionally.

At this point you can grill the portobellos, sear them on the stove top, or do as I did and “grill” them on a George Foreman. I recommend the first two for serving them as a main dish, the latter for the wrap.

To make a wrap, heat up one tortilla so that it’s soft and pliable.  Next, spread hummus on the tortilla, leaving a 1″ margin around the edge.  Layer lettuce, tomato slices, and portobello slices on top the hummus, wrap up like a burrito, and serve!  (Or wrap in aluminum foil and take to work!)

If I were given the opportunity to do one big thing for America today it would be to bring Food, Inc. to every school, church, and social organization in the nation.  Every single person living, breathing, and eating in this country needs to see this film.  Robert Kenner, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan (among scores of other individuals) have created a tour de force with Food, Inc. that I hope does sweep the nation and does create change.

I’m not a film critic and, yes, Food Inc. was preaching to the choir with me, but I did take my mother to see the film on Friday when it opened here in Atlanta.  I joked that the movie would turn her into a vegan–which it won’t–but I think it did open her eyes to the terror that is the American food industry.  The movie highlights not only the food industry as it changes from small, independent farms to three or four giant corporations, but also the inhumane treatment of industry workers (both farmers and immigrants, illegal or not), the squalid conditions animals live in before meeting the killing floor, the reason behind the rise of e coli in both meat and vegetables (run-off from mega farms), and the health impacts of our food sources on low-income families (among others).

Thankfully, there is hope too.  I was an environmental studies major in college focusing on policy and ecology and one of the things I learned during my four years in the department was that I am not an environmentalist and I do not like environmentalists.  Now, before you jump all over me, let me clarify.  I am pro-environment, and that means both the non-human landscape, animals, and human beings.  But I do not believe in extremes, and I feel that often times environmentalists (like any group lobbying for political or social change/power/etc–i.e. organized religion, the food industry, politicians) skew facts and don’t always act in the best interest of humans or the non-human environment.  That said, I am in awe of the way Food, Inc. stayed far away from extremes and chose to emphasize the impact that Gary Hirschberg of Stonyfield Farms and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms are having on the industry.

Stonyfield started out as a tiny, organic dairy farm in the 1980s.  In 2001 it was bought by Groupe Danone and given the opportunity to expand its production and technology, making it the #3 yogurt in the U.S. today.  Luckily, Dannon has allowed Stonyfield to maintain its sustainable, ethical practices, and I hope that continues, but the impact of the company “selling out” has actually saved the planet billions of tons of chemical waste and run-off.  It’s environmentalism + business and, as the filmmakers point out, it’s the only marriage that will actually affect the market and turn it towards sustainable agriculture.

Joel Salatin started Polyface Farm near Staunton,Virginia in 1961.  Eschewing all industrial farming techniques, Joel and his family created a farm that grazes its cattle in real fields with real grasses, allows pigs to roam and rut for food, and chickens to actually range freely outside.  The slaughtering techniques are also all by hand and are ridiculously more humane than the killing floors featured in Peta’s hairy videos.  While I personally don’t eat meat, if I did, I would only eat it from a farm like Polyface, one that considers the life and the death of its animals and seeks to honor them by providing a high quality of life and a decent death.  Joel also refuses to change his farm in the face of a push by the market for his products.  He’s really interested in ensuring the highest quality of ethics in food.

Yes, the movie shows the killing floor.  Yes, it took me places where I cringed and squirmed and actually cried at the absolute squalor of our food system.  But yes, it ended on hope.  We really can change our food industry by demanding more diverse crops, organic and locally grown food.  We can lobby our government officials to enforce FDA standards.  We can eat ethically if we buy it.  And yes, that costs more, but I think we, as people with computers and access to movie theaters, can afford that.  We can demand that food stamps be accepted at local farmers markets (3 in Atlanta already do! rock on!), we can volunteer in community gardens.  There’s a lot we can do and if it takes a movie to make people see that, then Food, Inc. has done that.

The movie lacks political partisanship–while it mentions the Bush administration, it also mentions the Clinton administration.  And that political expose only happened once during the entire film–once!  The even-tone of the film makes it absolutely approachable to both liberals and conservatives alike and I have to praise Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser for that.

If I haven’t convinced you, read this way better review over at Atlantic Monthly or check out Food, Inc.’s website.  To see if Food, Inc. is playing near you, go here.  Seriously, if you can, watch the film.  And take one or two friends with you.  Get the word out.  Then cook a great family style dinner highlighting everything you’ve learned!


First of all, really Atlanta, really? Ninety-EIGHT frappin’ degrees tomorrow? NINETY-EIGHT?!?! Sigh.

I have a confession to make: I’m becoming a little bit obsessed with swimming. I have swum four days in a row this week and assuming all goes well tomorrow, the week will tally up to five, FIVE, swims in just as many days. Back in mid-January when I made my New Year’s Ideas and put down “learn how to swim” I never would have guessed that it would become a lifestyle-changing experience. But the best changes you never expect. Like I would have never expected myself to sell my car in 2006 and live car-free for three years in Atlanta. Wish I still were, but that lifestyle ain’t so easy in Roanoke. But when the bike became too stressful and a detrimental thing in my life, I went without a major form of exercise for almost one year. Then I decided to swim. My last semester of undergrad I audited a PE swimming class, learned some strokes, got used to going to the pool three times a week, and ever since I’ve been working on going longer, faster, and harder in the water. This week, with my “extra” time I decided to push myself and you know what? I think it’s paying off. Sure, yesterday kinda sucked–it was way too hot in the afternoon when I went and I got overheated–and today I didn’t get a full workout in (thanks lightning), but I can feel my stamina increasing and I just feel great overall. Achy, tired great. It feels good to have my body back.

But you know what tastes good? Dreena Burton’s Orange Sesame Tofu. I still don’t own Eat, Drink & Be Vegan (although I want it), but thankfully the internet’s got this recipe going. Served with a side of brown rice and garlicky green chard, it’s definitely one of the lighter meals I enjoy making on a semi-regular basis. You can totally switch it up with other veggies & whatnot, but I love the simplicity of a nice leafy green vegetable, crunchy brown rice, and orange spicy tofu. And one of these days I’ll actually get around to ordering this book!

Orange Sesame Tofu & Garlicky Swiss Chard

from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan

2 tsp arrowroot powder
1/2 c freshly squeezed orange juice (zest orange first, see below)
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp tamari/Bragg’s Amino Acids
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 lb extra-firm tofu, sliced 1/4-1/2 inch (5-10 mm.) thick squares, and patted to remove excess 1/4 cup green spring onions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
1-2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (for garnish)

1 bunch of swiss chard, cleaned & chopped roughly (stems included)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil

1 cup brown rice, cooked

Preheat oven to 400˚F (205˚C). In an 8×12 inch (20×30 cm) baking dish, combine arrowroot with 2 Tbsp. orange juice and stir until fully dissolved. Add remaining juice and ingredients, except tofu, green onions and sesame seeds, and stir to combine. Add tofu and turn to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour or more, or bake it immediately.

To bake, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over tofu, gently stir to cover tofu with sauce, and bake again, uncovered, for another 6-9 minutes, or until sauce thickens and is bubbling at edges (sauce will continue to thicken as it cools).

Meanwhile, sauté the swiss chard with the garlic in the olive oil on medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the swiss chard is tender. Remove from heat.

Remove the tofu from the oven, sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds, and serve over brown rice with the swiss chard.

Right now I’m in semi-vacation mode and loving it! My boss at the Beckett Project is taking a much needed post-first-volume-production vacation and the other one, my good friend M., is stuck at an editing conference in Wisconsin, so the office is closed for the week, meaning I’m only working 1 in-office job at the moment (plus my freelance work). Hooray! (That took a lot of explaining…sheesh.) So what am I doing in my new-found freedom? Well, I’ve written, read a few books of poetry, am in the process of obsessively cleaning my apartment (scrubbed my bathroom floor by hand–so clean and so rewarding!), and have gone swimming both yesterday and today. My goal is to go every day this week, upping my normal swims from 3x per week to 5x. I’m exhausted already, but I feel amazing, like I’m really accomplishing something physical. Oh, and I picked back up working on French translations. No, I’m not busy at all. (smile)

I have had a little time to cook, thankfully! Tonight I fried up one of VeganDad’s bratwursts with garlicky kale and mashed taters to celebrate Bloomsday–it’s no grilled mutton kidneys, but it’ll do. If I hadn’t decided to lay off on the alcohol for a day or two, I definitely would have had a bit of whiskey to top it off. Joyce would have approved.

The other day, though, I made Heidi/Leon Restaurant’s Baked Sweet Potato Falafel. Oh my goodness it’s delicious. It’s a bit time consuming, but worth the wait, plus they reheat fabulously well. She’s right, they aren’t “falafeley,” not in taste or texture, but I’m hooked on their sweet, crispy, filling nature. And gluten-free folks, no worries, they are totally gluten-free! I personally hate cilantro, so I subbed parsley for the cilantro and I think they turned out lovely. I served them over a scoop of tabbouleh (which I’ll admit, came from a box–my mother gave it to me at least two years ago and I figured it was time to use it, I mean, you do have to add tomato and lemon juice…) and I think this is my new favorite light summer meal. It’s filling enough for me to be happy post-swim, but light enough for me to not feel icky in this hot, humid, swelteringness called Atlanta.

Sweet Potato Falafel

from 101 Cookbooks

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 a bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 c chickpea flour
a splash of olive oil
a sprinkling of sesame seeds
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender – 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leave the potatoes to cool, then peel. (You could skip this step if you own a microwave. Just poke holes in the potatoes with a fork and cook for 7 minutes at full power. Flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until tender.)

Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, ground coriander, parsley, lemon juice and chickpea flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash until smooth with no large chunks. Stick in the fridge to firm up for an hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you take it out, your mix should be sticky rather than really wet. You can add a tablespoon or so more of chickpea flour if necessary (the water content of sweet potatoes varies enormously).

Reheat the oven to 400F/200C. Using a couple of soup spoons (put a well-heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides) or a falafel scoop if you have one, make the mixture into falafelly looking things and put them on an oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the bases are golden brown.

Makes about 16 falafel, enough for 4 – 6.

Serve over tabbouleh.

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