Archives for category: Kitchen

Even though eating and cooking remain a firm part of my daily routine, blogging has admittedly taken short shrift this past month. Let’s chalk it up to my impending cross country move to the San Francisco Bay Area for a new job and adventure. The logistical and emotional preparation has sapped up my extra time.

Now that my ducks are in a row,  the writing wheels have resumed their turn. I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about food communities, what they mean, and how we develop culinary hubs where we live. Next Big City just picked up one of my Grid posts about community kitchens across United States cities, where I spoke to a number of their benefits, including:

  • Serving as an alternative communal site for food preparation and distribution
  • Easing the burden on small-scale and artisan food producers who want to deliver locally made food to city residents
  • Challenging the traditional notion that culinary pioneers need to front gobs of cash to open up their own gourmet storefronts
  • Offering shared, mixed-use production and sales facilities to accommodate more humble food operations

This alternative community venture supports new artisan food producersMy article highlights San Francisco’s Forage Kitchen, a work in progress food production and event space that typifies a successful food community. No one can argue that the Bay Area has a storied history of supporting alternative culinary ventures — just take a look at the Ferry Marketplace or the “Gourmet Ghetto” neighborhood in Berkeley, home to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and the cooperatively-owned Cheeseboard Collective.

Yet I’ve seen community food hubs develop more and more in smaller East Coast cities as well. In my home turf of Providence, R.I. a gourmet olive oil shop has opened up across the street from renowned Seven Stars bakery. Just over the city border in Pawtucket, R.I., Hope Artiste Village boasts a number of food-related ventures, including a top notch local coffee roaster, and a great wintertime farmers market.  And when I visited Portland, Maine two weeks back, I visited the Public Market House, which provides low-overhead business space for smaller food vendors who want to downsize from their own storefront. Together in this larger building, food producers are worth more than the sum of their parts.

This multi vendor hub brings foodies together in Portland, MaineThis type of cluster effect, and the food community that results, really excites me going forward. Owning your own food business no longer has to be an isolating adventure for the elite. And that means more opportunities to try new meals and savor the act of food production with your friends and loved ones. Cheers to that.

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I know I’ve said before that I’m not really a baker. But I lied. Quite often I love to bake, especially when I can do a little experimenting with flavors. Case in point: these Chocolate Brownie Cookies with Walnut and Sea Salt that I whipped up for a dinner this week.

A few of you just paused — sea salt? However, let’s take a step back. Who doesn’t like that heavenly spot between sweet and savory? Sea salt is a delicious complement to many sugar-laden baked goods. Salted caramel, anyone? Or, how about this chocolate-covered pretzel toffee?

The initial chocolate cookie recipe is tweaked slightly from The Post Punk Kitchen (check out those ladies for a number of incredible vegan recipes) but I think those of you with a hankering for a sweet ‘n salty fix will enjoy my variation. And yes, the texture is very much like a brownie, thanks to a shorter baking time and super moist batter. No hockey puck cookies here. With that in mind, the walnuts and light sprinkle of sea salt offer a vital crunch to this crowd-pleasing treat.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies with Walnut and Sea Salt

3/4 cup canola oil

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon flax meal

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut)

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

A liberal pinch of sea salt

1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips (depending on how big your craving is)

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together flax meal and milk in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In another large bowl mix oil, sugar, vanilla, and flax/milk mixture. In batches, fold in the dry ingredients. You should get a nice stiff dough, at which point you can add chocolate chips and walnuts.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and flatten into a disc. Place on a very lightly greased cookie sheet about an inch apart.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then set them on a wire rack or plate to cool completely.

As they cool, sprinkle a few crystals of sea salt on the top. Delicious. Makes about 12 big cookies.

In other cookie news, Family Circle magazine’s “Presidential Cookie Bake-Off” is underway this week in preparation for July 4th, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney vying for the prize. Now’s not really the time for me to get into the problematic gender implications of this contest, but it’s worth thinking about as you check out the recipes. Michelle has submitted a recipe for White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (with the inclusion of mint chocolate…interesting), while Ann shares hers for Oatmeal and M&M Cookies. Neither batch is vegan, so you’ll all have to tell me which you prefer. In the meantime, make sure you’re all registered to vote for the actual election.

Oh, summer. Sometimes it’s 100 degrees and humid and you have a mysterious insect bite/rash on your ankle (hint: last week). And sometimes it’s perfect.

This weekend I struck gold. My family hosted cousins for a backyard picnic complete with late afternoon breezes, red wine, and tales of Italian relatives growing figs in North Providence, R.I. (it can be done!). Best of all, an early visit to the farmer’s market inspired many delicious dishes for the evening, all of which were light, fresh, and reflective of the summer season. You really can’t ask for more.

It all started in the morning when my mom and I shopped the town farmer’s market. Asparagus had never been part of the dinner equation, but who could resist these beauties?

These green asparagus tasted delicious with a quick grill on the barbecue. With just a hint of char, the stalks retained their crisp, juicy bite. Do not underestimate freshly-grown asparagus. When I was little, these grew wild behind our house. I’ve loved them ever since.

Also at the market: ruby red radishes. I was tasked with creating an interesting salad to share for the evening, and decided to go with quinoa, my personal favorite. As a vegan, I often seek out this protein-packed seed — it cooks like a grain and really satisfies. A quick survey of the kitchen revealed ripe avocados and edamame I’ve been itching to use, so I threw it together into a delicious salad, complete with a drizzle of homemade lime dressing.

Quinoa, Radish, Avocado & Edamame Salad with a Lime Dressing

1.5 cups dry quinoa

4-5 small radishes, chopped

1 ripe avocado

1 cup frozen edamame

1 lime

Olive oil & salt

To start, prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on whatever box it came in — the general rule of thumb is 2 cups water for every cup quinoa. Once all the water is absorbed and the grain cooked, fluff that pot o’ quinoa with a fork and put it in the fridge to cool for at least half an hour.

While the quinoa is cooling, cook your edamame in a pot of salted, boiling water. Important Note! Do this only briefly, and dunk them in cold water immediately afterwards so they don’t get mushy — the salad relies on the combination of crisp textures. The satisfying pop of the edamame is key.

When the quinoa is cooled, toss in the edamame. Add the chopped radishes.

Make a quick lime dressing: the juice of 1 lime, a splash of olive oil and salt to taste. Drizzle over the whole thing. I didn’t add any this time, but I think a light addition of cumin to the dressing would also work really well.

Toss the avocado on top and serve — easy!

And just because I can’t help myself: here’s the baguette from Provencal bakery that we also purchased from the farmer’s market. An all-around tasty complement to the entire meal, with a beautiful knotted and cracked-top crust.

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