Monthly Archives: April 2012

meatless monday: vegan rustic bread lasagna

Elaine: "It's vegetable lasagna."
Jerry: "Who?"
Elaine: "Vegetable lasagna!"
(Snippet via "Seinfeld". Image via Cheeky Kitchen.)

The name implies that this dish is a carb-heavy, I-need-a-nap-in-my-sweatpants kind of dish. Wrong. It is a vegetable-showcasing, innovative use of your day-old sourdough bread that is (bonus!) vegan. Which is great for highlighting the spinach and tomatoes that will soon be coming of age in the Northeast. I love (almost) summer!

Vegan Rustic Bread Lasagne with Eggplant & Spinach
Adapted from Cheeky Kitchen

5 tbsp. olive oil + 1/4 c. for drizzling
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes with basil (i.e. Muir Glen Organic), blended
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. Italian Herb mix
2 eggplants, sliced to 1/2-in. thick
2 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
12 slices of day-old rustic sourdough bread
Olive oil nonstick cooking spray
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 large tomatoes, sliced very thin
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot, heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil, then toss in about one-fourth of the garlic cloves. Cook for 2-3 min. in the hot oil, stirring constantly to keep the garlic from burning. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, and Italian Herb Mix and allow to simmer for 20-30 min.

Place the eggplant slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 c. of olive oil, salt and pepper, then slide pan into preheated oven for 30-40 min., or until eggplant is tender and slightly golden brown around the edges.

While your eggplant is roasting, spray each slice of sourdough bread on both sides with nonstick olive oil spray. Cook in a heated grill pan until toasty and golden brown on both sides.

In a large saucepan or wok, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat, sweat the garlic in the hot oil for 1-2 min., then add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted.

To assemble: Spread 1/2 c. of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large casserole pan. Layer with bread until the dish is completely covered. Add half of the tomato sauce mixture on top. Layer all of the eggplant and spinach on top of the sauce. Add a second layer of bread over the spinach layer. Top with remaining sauce, making sure that you’ve covered the bread entirely with the sauce.

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Place sliced tomatoes across the top of the breadcrumbs. Salt and pepper generously.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 min. Allow to sit for 10 min., then drizzle balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, sprinkle fresh basil, then slice, serve, and enjoy with a crisp salad and sparkling lemon water.


wednesday wisdom: “contraband” by bruce smith

April is National Poetry Month. We’ve been celebrating with a poem every Wednesday.

"owl" by picasso.


That thing you sent didn’t open,

didn’t change my life as it should, didn’t complicate,

or play, although it made a hate

crime, a love note—both of those—a stolen

thing from the Congo passed through France

then shown to Picasso by Matisse at Stein’s apartment

a carving, a mask, a dance—a misrepresented

soul that became the thing—a trance

we lived in while we built the Great Wall,

The Chrysler Building, the Erie Canal—servants

to the civilization, dowsing, digging,

never stopping to drink.  God strangled

the details as we smuggled the cargoes

of our gifted lives, our lies, our singing.

Bruce Smith, published Aug. 6, 2008 on Slate

meatless monday: costa rican gallo pinto

Salsa, agua, and Fresca are lunchtime necessities. Rosi's Soda Tica, Nosara.

If you’ve ever traveled through Costa Rica, there’s no way you haven’t tried Gallo Pinto, unless you traveled through Costa Rica blindfolded and consumed only the Lara Bars you packed in your carry-on. (Shame, shame on you!). Gallo Pinto is everywhere, is eaten for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, is cheap, readily available at every roadside restaurant and hotel, and consists of two classic meatless mainstays: rice and beans. If you’re a world traveler, you know that the charm of real culture experience is to eat like a local. That means that when you’re in Latin America, you eat rice and beans, every day, at least once a day, usually more, and you love it.

How does one make Gallo PintoYou ask. It’s simple: cook the beans, cook the rice, and then cook them together, you dingus! HOWEVER. You’re smart enough to know that there’s a secret, right? Right. The secret’s in the sauce.

from Costa to my casa: Lizano, the new sauce in town.

This wonderful sauce is quickly replacing the Sriracha in my life. Not too spicy, not too sweet, made from hot chiles and puréed vegetables, with a subtle, Worcestershire-like smokiness, it’s delicious mixed into your Gallo Pinto and on eggs, cooked veggies or salads, and probably great in soups and stews. This is the key to making authentic Costa Rican Gallo Pinto, especially of the Guanacaste region.

(P.S…perhaps you’re a I-Don’t-Like-My-Different-Foods-Touching-On-My-Plate kinda person. I hear you; that’s how I was for most of my childhood. In which case, you can skip mixing the rice and beans and still have a Costa Rican specialty, Casados. Just add a little side salad and some fried plantains for an authentic lunch.)


Gallo Pinto. The real deal.

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto
Adapted from Costa Rica Guide

1 lb. black beans (fresh are best, but most likely you’ll find them dried)
8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh or frozen, not dried!
Lizano salsa, to taste (can be found, if lucky, in Latin American grocery stores)
1 small or medium onion
½ small red or yellow sweet pepper
3 c. vegetable broth or water
2 c. white rice
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1-3 tbsp. oil for frying

If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight; if fresh, rinse off. Drain the beans and add fresh water, covering to an inch above the top of the beans. Add salt, bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (about 3 hrs.). Stir in Lizano salsa liberally to taste.

Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine. Set aside.

Add 1 tbsp. oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 min. over medium high flame. Add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 min. Add broth or water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender, about 20-35 min. (This is also the recipe for Tico rice used in other favorites like tamales.)

Once rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans (½-1 c.). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. Sauté the rice, beans, reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add Lizano as needed. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can also refrigerate or freeze them. Make up small batches of Gallo Pinto when you want it by simply sautéing them together.

(In Guanacaste they sometimes use small very hot red peppers instead of or in addition to the sweet peppers.)

wednesday wisdom: “the lemon trees” by eugenio montale

April is National Poetry Month. We’ll celebrate with a poem every Wednesday.

photo from a trip to liguria, italy 2004. montale lived there and wrote about the coast and nature.

The Lemon Trees

Hear me a moment. Laureate poets
seem to wander among plants
no one knows: boxwood, acanthus,
where nothing is alive to touch.
I prefer small streets that falter
into grassy ditches where a boy,
searching in the sinking puddles,
might capture a struggling eel.
The little path that winds down
along the slope plunges through cane-tufts
and opens suddenly into the orchard
among the moss-green trunks
of the lemon trees.

Perhaps it is better
if the jubilee of small birds
dies down, swallowed in the sky,
yet more real to one who listens,
the murmur of tender leaves
in a breathless, unmoving air.
The senses are graced with an odor
filled with the earth.
It is like rain in a troubled breast,
sweet as an air that arrives
too suddenly and vanishes.
A miracle is hushed; all passions
are swept aside. Even the poor
know that richness,
the fragrance of the lemon trees.

You realize that in silences
things yield and almost betray
their ultimate secrets.
At times, one half expects
to discover an error in Nature,
the still point of reality,
the missing link that will not hold,
the thread we cannot untangle
in order to get at the truth.

You look around. Your mind seeks,
makes harmonies, falls apart
in the perfume, expands
when the day wearies away.
There are silences in which one watches
in every fading human shadow
something divine let go.

The illusion wanes, and in time we return
to our noisy cities where the blue
appears only in fragments
high up among the towering shapes.
Then rain leaching the earth.
Tedious, winter burdens the roofs,
and light is a miser, the soul bitter.
Yet, one day through an open gate,
among the green luxuriance of a yard,
the yellow lemons fire
and the heart melts,
and golden songs pour
into the breast
from the raised cornets of the sun.

- Eugenio Montale, translated by Lee Gerlach 

meatless monday: roasted kabocha soup with fried kabocha

kabocha. via the loveliest

Last week I gently requested you visit Kitchen M and browse Em’s posts for beautiful photos and recipes of wholesome food. This week I bring Kitchen M to you yet again. Kabocha squash is in season for a few more weeks, and this springy soup has a rich smokiness (from the burnt onion) and creaminess that’s suitable for cool spring evenings on the veranda, if you happen to have a veranda.

Kitchen M’s Roasted Kabocha Soup with Fried Kabocha

Serves 4-5 big bowls

2 lg. (approx. 3 lbs.) kabocha (For cooking only. If you are serving in kabocha bowls, you will need extra.)
1/2 oignon brûlé (literally, burnt oven. Not sure? Look here.)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 med. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 leek (white part), chopped
6 oz. tomato puree
4 lg. white eggs, lightly beaten
1 Sachet d’Epices (thyme, parsley, and bay leaf)
1 gallon water
Salt & pepper to taste
Sprigs of thyme for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment papers. Cut kabocha into half, deseed, and cut into chunks. Leave a little bit for making fried kabocha, which needs to be cut into very thin strips. Once you make those thin strips, set them aside. Put the cut side down and spread on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle some salt over kabocha and bake for about 45-50 min. or until they are cooked and tender.

While baking kabocha, make oignon brûlé and prepare for the vegetable consommé. In a large pot, combine all ingredients except salt and pepper. Heat the pot over low to medium and bring it to simmer slowly. Stir almost constantly until the raft (clarification mixture starts to adhere into a solid mass) is formed. Continue to simmer for about an hour, uncovered.

Fry kabocha strips in vegetable oil until golden brown and crispy. Set them aside.
Strain the consommé through a cheesecloth or paper-filter-lined strainer. The liquid should be perfectly clear at this point.

When kabocha are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool at room temperature. Once they are cool to touch, cut the skin off and put them in a food processor (depending on the size of your food processor, you might have to divide into multiple batches). Pour about ½ c. of consommé into the food processor. Puree kabocha until the mixture is smooth and consistent.

Slowly mix in pureed kabocha into consommé using a whisk. Put the consommé-kabocha mixture into a large pot and warm it up over low to medium heat. At this time, adjust the taste with salt and pepper.

Serve warm with fried kabocha strips and a sprig of thyme.

wednesday wisdom: “a group of girls from minnesota or black mascara” by maureen owen

April is National Poetry Month. We’ll celebrate with a poem every Wednesday.

A group of girls from Minnesota or black mascara
Not trees trace so             just kids we hung
slim buckets    of chokecherries from our wrists

in neighboring galaxies    Giant Star Factories take control
composed of cold hydrogen gas and dust

7,000             light years from earth
slender-toed geckos                   step onto the moon

On the road between 2 baptisms and a shower they rang
to say       shallow water          the mouths drop open

not where you stand but how long you can
stand standing there
in constant hypothesis

the trees are passersby
damp light
flat orange moon
velvet navy-blue sky

fire berries
from here we see the beautifully attired drive tough Ford pickups

the oncoming
organizing principle
brushed out

the dancers take turns leaping over the bonfire       into
Qué pasa USA?

haircuts in London are really pretty backward
London—you are definitely not going to have a manicure there!
in LA toes must match the hands or else just don’t leave the house
in NY it’s more brunette

Outside       a refrigerator          floats       in the blackness shiny amid sharp stars

& the turtle who holds up the world          holds up
the world

– Maureen Owen

meatless monday: sweet potato cookies

It’s the end of Holy Week, and another long season of Lent, for the many of you out there who observe it. My father grew up Catholic and participated in the many traditions of this holiest season. My mother grew up Protestant and also observed Easter traditions. Once they married and began raising us kidlets in a non-denominational-yet-spiritual sort of way, Easter meant several things. One, it meant we went to church with my grandparents (mom’s side). We hunted eggs, both real and plastic and candy-filled, and rolled them down the big hill outside my cousins’ house in The Great Egg Race. We wore pretty pastel dresses and sweet little patent shoes with frilly white socks. Finally, we ate a wonderful meal together, including Easter ham and/or turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, deviled eggs, Presbyterian salad, and way too much candy.

One of these days I will write a post and pour out to you my complicated, tangled relationship with religion (specifically Christianity) in my angst-ridden way. Today is not that day (I hear you breathe a sigh of relief!). I love Easter and have very lovely memories surrounding this holiday. I love what Easter stands for: celebrating rebirth through spring’s sweetness, hope in the unseen, newness, all against the backdrop of early spring, little baby blooms trying to make their way into this world. It marks the beginning of us coming into light once again.

The Kitchen M blog offers up some of the most beautiful food photography I’ve ever seen. She (Em) also offers up little fables and tales with each recipe, like a foodie J. Peterman, and the combination is irresistible to me.

sweet potato cookie love. via


These sweet potato cookies, although not Easter-specific, are Easter-ish. Look at the simple, humble potato-y beauty here. Then please head over to her blog and tell me you don’t feel the love of God or something God-like gushing from it. There are few truths more powerful, more simple, than the act of feeding the people around us as an act of God-like love.


Kitchen M’s Sweet Potato Cookies

2 large Satsuma sweet potatoes
2 tsp. butter
2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. honey
6 tbsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment papers.

Wash Satsuma sweet potatoes and wrap each with plastic wrap. Microwave them for 7-8 min (alternatively, you can bake them in the oven just like baking regular potatoes.)

Peel the skin while the potatoes are still hot. Mash them in a large bowl until very smooth. Add butter and sugar and mix well. Add heavy cream and egg yolk and mix well. Add honey and milk and mix well.

Fit a pastry bag with #22 tip. Fill the pastry bag with the potato mixture. Pipe about 2” disk or however shape you prefer, leaving 2-3” in between cookies. Once the pan is filled with cookies, bake at 350F for about 15 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

Let them cool slightly on a cooling rack. Serve while they are still warm. You can let them cool completely and reheat them again just before serving.