Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Moroccan Spiced Chili & Green Tomato Zhoug

All summer I witness friends from all parts of the globe gush over the hot weather while I hide under hats and try to survive the heat. The shift to cool weather brings me great relief and ironically, warms my heart and my kitchen.  I love bundling up in scarves and cozy sweaters and shifting from the refreshing cold salads and meals of summer to the steamy stews of fall and winter. This recipe is rich in spices and a huge hit (with kids and adults) every time I make it.  Last winter I cooked this recipe on the TV show CT Style to promote the CitySeed Winter Farmers' Market, and locally grown foods (the meat, canned tomatoes, cooking greens, onions and squash were all available from CT farms through the winter months).  This is one of those recipes that people always ask me for while they're eating it, so it's about time I shared it here. 

Last week I cooked this up but left out the chili pepper so the younger kids at the table would eat it, but didn't want the rest of us to suffer for the lack of heat, so I made up a last minute spicy green tomato condiment to stir in.  It was one of those inventive moments where I lacked the main ingredients for a recipe (in this case, cilantro and parsley for the Yemeni condiment zhoug), but realized I had plenty of green cherry tomatoes in my garden which added a bright tanginess to the rich red spiced stew and transformed the sauce into an entirely new thing.  I'm including that recipe below as well.  


Moroccan Spiced Chili with Winter Vegetables
Recipe courtesy of CitySeed, Inc.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
1 pound ground beef, lamb or small diced stew meat
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
½ cup French lentils (grey green lentils that do not mush when cooked, or substitute 1 can chickpeas)
1/2 small winter squash (such as butternut or acorn) cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups water
2 cups frozen or fresh chopped greens such as spinach, collards or kale

Instructions
1.  In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Brown the meat and break it into small pieces. As meat starts to brown add diced onion and sauté with meat until translucent. Add garlic and spices, continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
2.  Add the tomatoes, water and lentils and stir, scrapping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add diced squash and simmer 20 minutes more or until squash is tender and lentils are cooked through. Add finely chopped greens and cook a few minutes more until tender. Adjust seasoning as needed. If you have the time, you can cook this chili slow and on low heat for a few hours, stirring occasionally, and adding the greens a few minutes before you are ready to serve. 
3. Optional: serve the chili with yogurt and cilantro or parsley (or the Green Tomato Zhoug below).


Green Tomato Zhoug
This spicy salsa type condiment is inspired by a Yemeni green sauce called zhoug which consists of garlic, chili peppers, cardamom, caraway seeds, cilantro and parsley, salt and olive oil. 

4 cloves garlic
Seeds from 3 green cardamom pods, ground (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 small fresh chili pepper or dried chili to taste
8 green cherry tomatoes or 2 green tomatoes

Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, first grind the garlic, salt and spices into a paste. Quarter cherry tomatoes or chop the large tomatoes, add to the garlic paste and pound or pulse until the desired texture is reached. Adjust seasoning as desired. 

Do you have a favorite chili recipe? Please share below!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Creative Process of Crafting a Menu


Last Friday I got a call from a friend and colleague who works at the Yale Sustainable Food Program asking if I'd like to cook lunch on their farm the following Tuesday for visiting chef Jorge Rausch and 15 guests. While I have been trying to say "No" a lot more often, this sounded fun and inspiring, so I said "Yes".  As soon as a meal or event is proposed, my brain starts storming with menu ideas and inspirations.  It's involuntary, constant, and I'm pretty sure genetic, given the glorious habits on both sides of my family to talk incessantly about food and menu planning.

For this menu, I started by looking up Chef Jorge Rausch, who I'm sad to admit I did not know about before this event.  He happens to be the cousin of a chef friend of mine in New Haven, CT,  Avi Sazpro, owner of Roia, but more famously, he is the Columbian chef/owner of one of South America's 50 best restaurants and a pioneer on eating lion fish, an invasive species that is destroying coral reefs in the Caribbean.

My first menu planning instinct was to think about local invasive species and how I might incorporate them into the menu. However, I am not an expert in plant or animal invasives, and while I am aware of a few of them (primarily through my friend Bun Lai's work as the Chef and owner of Miya's Sushi restaurant), I didn't have easy access to (or much time to go foraging for ) these plants, seaweeds or crabs/fish. Additionally the cooking and refrigeration facilities in the open-air farm kitchen are very limited, so I decided to do a vegetarian lunch to avoid complicating the food handling logistics, so fish and crabs were out.

My next thought was to work with indigenous ingredients such as corn or corn meal which are used through all of the Americas in distinct ways. Columbian cuisine is well known for their various types of arepas or cornmeal pancakes, and a northeastern version of this would be a Johnny Cake, which could be a great inspiration for a menu.  After thinking this through, I vetoed it for two reasons:
1. Despite some searching, I have not found many corn varieties being grown that are native to this state, and have also not found any indigenous corn varieties being dried and ground for corn meal.
2. Arepas are a living evolving and varied cuisine in and of themselves in Columbia, and across many parts of Southern and Central America. While I don't doubt that I could do something deliciously fun with their Johnny Cake counterpart for lunch, without an indigenous corn variety or special traditional recipe, this menu component seemed like a replication of something more popular in the chef's home cuisine than a real reflection of indigenous cuisine from Connecticut.


Next, my food loving brain jumped into my own personal food history, both ancestral and through lived experience and I started imagining Jewish (both ashkenazi and sephardi) foods done with seasonal ingredients (apples and honey for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah holiday for example), maybe an assortment of recipes representing the predominant cultural groups on New Haven (African, Puerto Rican, Italian etc...) but it felt nearly impossible to chose which cultural groups to represent and then which recipes to riff off of.



So then I started to listen to the underlying obvious menu that was arising when I thought about the farms we would be sourcing ingredients from, the confines of the kitchen, the predicted 80+ degree "fall" weather for that day and my own desire for fun, flavor, texture and color with little surprises to entice diners, but not distract them from the purpose of the lunch: to gather together to commune and learn over a good meal in a beautiful natural setting.  After a little more contemplation I realized a seasonal "farm to table" based meal, with some of my own cultural influences was actually a perfect example of the current state of American cooking and just the right thing to prepare for our visiting guest chef.



I decided on a cold soup, with both an early fall and jewish twist - beets (rather than a tomato based gazpacho) and a little chili pepper added for delicious heat, signaling more the middle eastern and sephardi Jewish cuisine, mixed with a borscht type soup more reflective of ashkenazi recipes. However, the soup was topped with roasted corn, a nod to the all important corn crops of this hemisphere, and some pickled red onions for contrast both in flavor and texture.



 I couldn't resist making my favorite nut and seed based bread, and including farmer's cheese, another nod to my eastern european jewish roots. Two versions of the cheese were served, one cheese I made from fresh milk and topped with roasted tomatoes and garlic, the other I purchased and topped with locally raised honey I infused with black pepper and fresh rosemary (I sort of a sucker for condiments and encouraging people to taste, sample, spread...and work a bit for their meal).


For dessert, I scooped up the last few damson prune plums I could find, even though we were on the cusp of apple season, and used them to make another dish I often associate with my Jewish heritage, but is actually common across Europe, a plum tart. For this version, I added cornmeal to the crust for fun and a bit of lemon zest, sugar and a sprinkle of cornstarch under the fruit, to sure up the juicy filling so it would be easy to pass and serve during the conversational meal.
























It was an incredibly satisfying meal to serve.  The weather was gorgeous, the farm and out door kitchen glorious, the number of people very manageable, and the ingredients were fresh, delicious and inspiring.  It felt like a gift from my heart to share this food and my seasonal inspiration with a very hard working chef visiting our country, and big table of very appreciative and hungry students. Inspiration well executed, delicious food and a full heart, menu planning gone wonderfully right.


Final menu:
Chilled Beet Soup with Roasted corn and pickled red onions
Pumpkins seed and walnut bread
Farmer's Cheese two ways
  w/ roasted tomatoes&
  w/ rosemary black pepper honey
Plum Tarts with flaky cornmeal crust

Chilled Beet Soup
8 servings

3 Leeks (or white onions)
1/3 Celery root, peeled and diced (about 1 cup diced)
2 Carrots
3 Medium potatoes
4 Pounds beets (about 9 beets)
1/4 Fresh red chili pepper
8 Cups water
Salt to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Butter (optional)

Whey (from the making fresh farmers' cheese is optional)
If not using whey, use the juice of half to one whole lemon, to taste after soup has cooled. 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub beets with oil, place them in a baking dish. Cover with foil or a top and bake until tender, (you can test by inserting a sharp knife into them). The time for this can range from 40 minutes to over an hour depending on the size of the beets. (You could also peel beets, chop and simmer with the other root vegetables later in the recipe if you would prefer). 
  2. Let the beets cool until you can handle them. Use your hands or a dish towel you don't mind turning pink to rub the skins off, use a knife to trim root end off.  Cut beets into large pieces.
  3. While beets are cooking, sauté leeks, celery root, carrots and chopped chili pepper in a few tablespoons of olive oil (and butter if you like) until leeks are tender and translucent. Add eight cups of water, potatoes, salt, simmer until potatoes are soft. Add chopped beets, simmer 10 minutes more. Puree soup until smooth. Optional: Return to heat and simmer 5 minutes longer and puree again to make it even smoother. Adjust seasoning to taste. 
  4. Chill. Serve cold or at room temperature with roasted corn and pickled red onions, recipes below. 
Simple Condiments
Roasted Corn with Herbs: Shuck the husks and silks from the corn. Roast over an open flame, or even on an electric coil burner, turning as the kernels brown or char slightly. Cool enough to handle, and cut kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Toss with a drizzle of oilve oil and any herbs you like. I used Marjoram and thyme because they were growing outside my back door....

Quick Pickled Red Onions: Slice one red onion in thin half circles. Press into a jar with a lid. Fill jar half way with a light color vinegar, white is fine, and another quarter of the way with water. Add salt and or sugar to taste, about 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar (adjust this to taste). Put top on and shake well till sugar and salt are dissolved. Let sit for 15 minutes or longer, shaking periodically. Onions will turn bright pink. They can be held in the fridge for 2 weeks.


Me, Chef Jorge Rausch, Farmer Jeremy Oldfield (Yale Farm)


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Transformation and Life-Giving Food

It has been a heck of a year since I posted here on my beloved blog. It has been a time of transformation and trying hard to maintain balance.  Over the past year I helped both my dad and my step mother pass on to the realm of the ancestors. My grandmother, a 93 year old holocaust survivor had to be moved out of her home, and has gone through periods of reliving her traumatic past and trying to adjust to her new present. As a part of the New Haven Food Policy Council I spearheaded the effort to establish a Food System Director position for the City of New Haven, with the final phase of hiring coming in the next few weeks.  I stepped down from the Council after eight years, but am helping to establish this new position.  I finished building a teaching and business incubation kitchen at CitySeed, the non-profit I work for, with an enormous amount of community support. I assisted with the opening of the new Culinary Academy at ConnCAT.  I took a sabbatical from work last summer to revive my spirit and go waterfall hunting with my family.  I have taken a necessary step back from some of the time and emotionally intensive political and community organizing work I have been doing for all of my daughter's eight years of life. I joined the board of Soul Fire Farm an amazing family farm in NY, focused on dismantling oppression and healing through food, community and liberation. I started exercising again.  I smile more.  I stop by to stare at the ocean more. I don't email while I'm hanging out with my children any more.  I have more attention and love to give to my own heart and to my husband. Phew.....that's a lot!! While things are not always easy, and there is always more growing and learning to do, over all I have less stress.  I am happier. 


For all of this I am grateful. Spending a year helping my father die was sad, healing and also life-giving. I had to slow down and focus on what was important. I was already starting to do that, but his getting sick really affected me. Early morning walks/jogs were also healing for my body and spirit. I started to exercise without judgement or expectation, which meant that I did it more, and did it with joy. As part of healing my body I also started to cut out some of the sweets and bread that I gravitate towards when I'm stressed. I came across this incredible nut bread in the midst of all of this change, and it brought me joy. It was referred to as a "life changing loaf of bread" on the My New Roots site I found it on, and I would have to agree with that title. 

This "bread" has no flour in it, only nuts, seeds, psyllium husk & chia seeds for fiber and binding, oats, water, coconut oil or ghee, maple syrup and a little salt. You mix that all together, let it sit in a parchment lined bread pan overnight, bake part way in the pan, then turn out on the oven rack and finish baking. Thats it. I swapped out the sunflower seeds for pumpkin seeds, I favor them with hazelnuts, but any nut will do, and I only eat these bread slices well toasted and crisp on the edges.  

Here is the recipe with slight variations from the original. I hope that you enjoy this bread, and that you are enjoying your life more each day. 


"The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread"Makes 1 loaf

Adapted from www.mynewroots.org
note: this bread is officially gluten free if you make it with oats labeled "gluten free"
Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup flax seeds
½ cup hazelnuts or almonds
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups water
Directions:
1. Combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Add maple syrup, oil and water to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). 
2. Line a bread pan with parchment paper, foil or use a silicone pan. Pour all of the nut mixture into the pan and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
4. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
5. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days or in the fridge for up to two weeks. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!


What is bringing you joy these days?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Homemade Yogurt, Finally!

I have tried a few times to make homemade yogurt, but rather than jars of divine creamy yogurt, I ended up with soupy sour milk. It's an expensive experiment if it doesn't work right. Thanks to a conversation with my friend Leah of Soul Fire Farm this summer, I learned a new technique that is turning out perfect yogurt every time, (two quarts for the price of a half gallon of milk, much cheaper than store-bought, and no containers to recycle).  I often use Farmers Cow milk which is a local CT dairy cooperative of small farmers, or organic or milk from grass feed/pasture raised cows so it is hormone free. 

The key to this successful recipe is holding the yogurt mixture overnight in a cooler filled with extra bottles of hot water to keep the temperature warm enough for the good bacterias added to the milk to work their magic and turn into yogurt. Many traditional recipes say to wrap the warm milk mixed with starter in towels and keep in an oven with the light on, but even in summer, this was not warm enough in my house to make the yogurt thicken.  

Good yogurt is filled with probiotics which are naturally occurring good bacterias that help our bodies digest food and fight off germs and infections. My daughter recently had to take antibiotics for Pneumonia, and we have been making sure that she eats or drinks yogurt, sometimes with extra probiotics mixed in, every day, to balance the effects of the medication which kills all bacteria in your body both good and bad. Yogurt and other naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi also contain probiotics which are great for your health. 

Hope you enjoy this and try out this simple recipe at home!

Homemade Yogurt
makes 2 quarts yogurt

1/2 gallon milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup plain yogurt
4 quart sized jars (or the equivalent)

Heat up a half gallon of 2% milk (you can use whole milk if you prefer) to 180° - measure this with a cooking thermometer. Remove from heat and let cool to 110°. 

While the milk is cooling, boil a big pot of water and place your jars and lids in it to sterilize by boiling for 10 minutes or so. Prepare a cooler by lining it with dish towels. Fill two of your jars with the boiling water from your sterilizing pot, screw the tops on the hot water jars and place them in the cooler. This is going to keep the cooler warm while your yogurt develops. 

When the milk has cooled to 110° stir the plain yogurt into the milk thoroughly. Pour into two sterilized quart-size mason jars, screw the covers on, and place in ithe towel lined nsulated cooler with the jars of hot water. Wrap the towel over all the jars and close the cooler tightly. Let sit for 8 to 12 hours.  Place set yogurt in the refrigerator to chill. Save a little of this yogurt as starter for your next batch. ENJOY!!!

Sorry the pictures are not laid out well, but they should give you an idea of the process! 

Please share your tips and techniques for homemade yogurt (or other treats) below!






Saturday, December 20, 2014

Some Holiday Treats


It is that season of sweets, treats and things cooked in oil so I thought I would pull together a few of my favorites off my blog from the past few years and throw in a some delicious recipes that have peaked my attention from the food realm for my own holiday table this year. I have not been posting as frequently as I used to (sorry!), life has many demands right now, but I am still getting to it once and a while, so keep checking back, or sign up in the side bar to the right for automatic notification of new posts. 
Happy Holidays and Winter Solstice 
I hope you are all warm, surrounded by love and well fed
- Tagan

Click the links below for recipes and more info


Holiday Cookies and Treats:
Rugelach, Raw Cocoa and Walnut truffles, Honeycomb Candy and Cardamom Bread (a Swedish Xmas treat)

Doughnuts (Sufganiot for Hanukkah)

Latkes
While Hanukkah is almost over, Sunday is a perfect day to mix up another batch of Latkes!

Orange Pepper Spiced Almonds
Spiced nuts are a great addition to the holiday cookie assortments. Satisfying, hearty and a nutritious balance to all the sugary sweets this season can offer up.

Clove Spiked Oranges - Pomanders: a fragrant holiday decoration







Smitten Kitchen has been posting some fabulous cookies and holiday treats this year, check out her blog. The crescent jam and cheese cookies looked especially good to me. 

What are some of your favorite holiday or cookie recipes?
Happy Holidays!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Apple Slab Pie


If you have made it out to any apple orchards this season (or if you are just buying big bags of apples from the grocery store) and are wondering what to do with the abundance of fall, this is a delicious and easy fall treat you can make: Apple Slab Pie. You don't have to get caught up in making a perfect looking pie crust, just take some pie dough (or good frozen puff pastry if you are feeling lazy) roll it out a little bigger than the size of a sheet pan, fill it with some of your favorite fall apples (or pears) a little sugar if you want, some spices and a few pats of butter. Bake and you are done. It makes a wonderful dessert for a crowd, and has a great fruit/crust ratio. I served this up with maple sweetened whipped cream, but greek yogurt, ice cream, or cheddar cheese are all great too. Happy Fall!


Apple Slab Pie
Some people consider a slab pie to have a top crust, and some might call this a gallette, either way, it is a rustic free-form pie and easy to make...enjoy!

Full recipe pie dough (recipe below)
10 apples (about 4 pounds) -a mix of sweet and tart apples are great
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon clove or cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh grated if you have it)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (or other sweetener that you like)
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg - beaten
coarse sugar for sprinkling

  1. Make pie dough (below) and chill for one hour or over night. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 1 inch bigger than the size of your sheet pan. It shouldn't be more than 1/4 inch thick in any spots. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Peel and slice apples into 1/2 inch wedges. Toss with spices and sugar. 
  4. Remove dough from fridge. Spread apples evenly over the crust leaving a 2 1/2 inch border all the way around the edge. Using your fingers, dot the apples with the butter.  Fold the edge of the crust over the edge of the apple filling, crimping a bit in the corners if necessary. 
  5. Brush the top of the crust with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with coarse sugar (regular granulated will work fine if that is what you have).
  6. Place pan on the bottom or middle to bottom rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes in the 400° oven until dough starts to brown slightly. Turn heat down to 350, continue baking until apples are tender,  and the crust is dark golden brown about 40 minutes more. Check the bottom of the crust using a spatula if possible to see if it is browning (and not burning). If needed, move to the top rack of the oven to cook apples and not burn the bottom of the crust. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

My Favorite Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or part whole wheat flour or wheat germ)
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup ice water
1 teaspoon vinegar (white or cider)
  1. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Measure and sift all of the dry ingredients. In a mixer, food processor or using two forks,  cut the butter into the dough until it is the size of larger peas or small grapes. Some larger sized piece of butter are good, just pinch them flat. 
  2. Add the ice water and vinegar and mix dough till combined, dough should be tacky, but not sticky. If the dough is crumbling apart, it is too dry, add a spoonful more water. Gently form the dough into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour or over night longer until well chilled. Dough can be frozen and then thawed as well. 

If you have tons of apples (or pears) and want some other ideas, check out this delicious
Apple Crisp with Cider and Spiced Prunes.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pizza from the Garden

When I pass pizza dough in the Italian market or even the whole wheat ones at Trader Joe's it is often hard for me to resist. I love making my own dough, but this bag of pre-made dough makes for a super quick weeknight dinner and is so much cheaper than ordering pizza.

Pizza From the Garden
To make Pizza, put the cold dough onto a well oiled sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap. let sit in a warm area until it is very soft and has risen considerably. Press the dough out to the edges of the pan with your finger tips. Top with whatever you like and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven.

The pizza pictured is rubbed with olive oil, dotted with fresh ricotta cheese, herbs, finely chopped kale, and sliced tomatoes from the garden (big red onions and tiny sun gold cherry tomatoes) and sprinkled with some Pecorino Romano cheese.  Bake until golden on the edges, rotating pans to different racks in the oven as needed to cook the bottoms and tops evenly.

Do you make pizza at home? What else do you do with pre-made pizza dough?

Friday, September 26, 2014

The End of Summer: Meals from the Garden


First I must apologize that it has been a long while since I have written anything for my blog. I have missed it, and missed sharing food and thoughts with you all. I have been trying to create more balance and joy in my life and staying off my computer and spending more time with family and doing things like art and dance have been key to that shift. Writing and blogging about food also bring me so much joy, so now, I am getting started again so stay tuned for more posts and let me know if there is anything you are wanting to hear/learn about. 

Since it has been a while, I thought it would be nice to share what has gone in my garden all summer. As usually it is an over crowded and weedy (but productive) bunch of raised beds and a beautiful tangle of tomato plants I generally refer to as the "Tomato Forest". In spring I can never believe that the tomato plants will actually get as large as they do, and want to plant as many of them as possible. 

Mostly we eat copious amounts of salad from our garden, fresh greens, cucumbers, numerous kinds of tomatoes and herbs, but there are occasional zucchini heavy cooked recipes and many kinds of raw or cooked kale dishes like the Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta below and the Pizza from the Garden here. I hope you all have had a rejuvenating summer and gotten to eat some delicious food along the way. It is nice to be back. - Tagan

Dinner on the front stoop: in the summer our dinning table grows into a family game table/paper collection spot, and all meals take place outside. At dusk the backyard often has too many mosquitos (yes there are mosquitos in the city) so we often eat on the front stoop, dragging out big bowls of food and cold bottles of water, on occasion our cutting board makes it out there piled with fresh sliced deliciousness from the garden, making us feel rich in it's abundance. 

Sliced Tomatoes with Crispy Onions and Garlic: cook onions over medium low heat in plenty of oil and salt until light golden, add garlic cook until tender and onions are nicely browned, drizzle over fresh cut tomatoes, serve with anything.




 Pumpkinseed Pesto (below with Kale and Pasta): Finely chop or puree toasted pumpkin seeds, good olive oil and a little salt, add basil and any other greens you have (kale is good but has a strong flavor, spinach is great as it has a mild flavor and makes a bright green pesto), pulse or chop until you have a fine paste. Add either finely grated cheese (Romano is my favorite) or miso if you don't want dairy, add a little lemon zest and adjust the salt and pepper and you are done. Obviously pesto is great on pasta, but it's also great with eggs and on toast.

One last gem are the little pumpkins and gourds that volunteered themselves from our compost this year. We spread the seedlings around the garden in spring and wondered what kind of squash would appear, amazingly we got little oval pumpkins, ghost white gourds and carnival squash.

A gift from the garden, and pure joy for the family. When I look out the window onto my backyard garden I am overcome with gratitude for the food it provides and the blessing of this little piece of land in my life. 

If you have a garden or dream of one, please share your favorite foods...