IT IS. So hot. We celebrated the first weekend of summer pretty hard, so some raw and fresh fare is much needed this week for other reasons–so that we can go about the day a little lighter, a little more energetic, a little more hydrated, maybe even sleep a tiny shred better. Oh, and a little less on the reeking of bourbon front would be awesome too, thanks.
So yeah. This week’s been a little more quiet and calm with plenty of fresh food. I’ve been sinking into a lovely new magazine called Good Company in the mornings (when it’s still cool + lovely) with coffee or an earl grey, and I happened to stumble onto a little piece on the Green Kitchen Stories crew and some of their favourite kitchen items. There was a charming drawing of this little notched peeler. I scanned over the description and saw “life changing,” sort of half believing it… But seriously? If you spend a five’r on anything this summer, maybe you should make it a julienne peeler (I have this one). If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m all about #fancyladylunch with noodle-y vegetables lately. It just feels so irresistibly clever. A couple seconds of peeling and you have a bowl full of noodles that won’t make your stomach feel grossly full. The flavour building potential is kind of neat too. Lots of possibility.
In the magazine there’s a beautiful zucchini noodle and pesto dish, but I’ve been feeling these cucumber ones the most. They’re so hydrating and crunchy. A little sweetness, chipotle powder for heat, plenty of salt, pepper and lime juice. There’s barely a slick of oil and heaps of arugula, mint and basil. Avocado and pumpkin seeds fill the tangle out. Then you toss the whole thing and drop it on top of a sea-salted wedge of cool watermelon, which acts like a dessert-y afterthought when the noodles are gone, all completely juicy from the salt and extra lime. I kind of feel refreshed just talking about it. Anyway, summer! Days of beaches, bike rides and walking out back to pick dinner at the end of it all. Go after it, friends :)
chili lime cucumber noodles on salted watermelon w/ mint + basil
notes: If you don’t want to spring for a julienne peeler (I use this Zyliss one), just use a regular vegetable peeler for some beautiful ribbons of cucumber instead. Also, when making the noodles, I usually stop just short of the center where all of the seeds are.
2 flat pieces of watermelon, about 1 inch thick
juice of 1 lime, divided
chipotle chili powder, to taste (or other variety of chili powder)
fat pinch of flaky sea salt, divided
1 english cucumber, peeled into noodles with a julienne peeler
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
little squeeze of raw honey or agave nectar
2-3 handfuls of arugula
2 sprigs of mint, leaves chopped + extra to garnish
3 sprigs of basil, leaves chopped + extra to garnish
1 ripe avocado, peeled + diced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
ground black pepper
Place the watermelon wedges on two plates. Sprinkle them with a bit of the lime juice, some salt and chipotle powder. Set aside.
Combine the cucumber noodles in a large bowl with the remaining lime juice, more salt + chipotle powder, olive oil, honey/agave, arugula, mint and basil. Toss to evenly mix. Divide the noodles between the 2 plates, placing them on top of the watermelon. Garnish the noodles with the avocado, pumpkin seeds and some fresh pepper. Serve with lime wedges if you like. Eat immediately.
“And then on May fifteenth, a balmy sweet day if ever I saw one, my seeds went into the warm, welcoming earth, and I could agree with an old gardening manual which said understandingly, “Perhaps no vegetable is set out in greater expectancy…for the early planting fever is impatient.”
A week later I put in another row, and so on for a month, and they did as they were meant to, which is one of the most satisfying things that can possibly happen to a gardener, whether greenhorn and eager or professional and weatherworn.
Then came the day with stars on it: time for what my grandmother would have called “the first mess of peas.””
When I settled on the title of this site, I had been poking around some works by M.F.K. Fisher quite a bit when I hit on that little passage in An Alphabet for Gourmets. It was perfect. Tracing that little slice from her life that would come every year. It said everything that I needed it to. Sure, it nods to the embrace of change in the fields, bringing that shift into your home and being grateful for what you can grow right where you find yourself in this world (total freedom, in other words). It says a lot more about how I find myself here, traipsing along with all of you too.
I generally eschew the designation of “expert” in any context, including food and food preparations. I screw things up a lot: not getting a recipe concept nailed in the initial trials, adding too much salt, forgetting that something is under the broiler, swearing at the waffle iron in a predominantly chill brunch setting. I post things here that people straight up tell me they do not like. I value that engagement too. If you recognize me on the street and tell me that some salad recipe from here was shit, I will have that conversation candidly. First attempts, first forays, first fuck-ups, first harsh criticisms, first rationalizations… They all have their place here and in life.
Any instance of mess means having your feet on the ground, and your hands in the work. That one was obvious, but hey.
It addresses this weird spot I’m finding myself in, worrying that buying and owning a home to make many future meals in will change my brain on a cellular level. Those rooms and floors that can hold us up, the land that we’ll find ourselves on… they might force a protective response. I worry that my scattered idealism will fade and stretch towards obsessive safeguarding of what will become undoubtedly 100% ours, that any ideas on what can be in a future sense will be scratched out. Mostly, that we will change fundamentally, that it will be observed.
It weirdly highlights my preference for a Coors Light in some casual drinking situations. Sometimes I want to slowly drift into hot-messyness over the course of an afternoon with marginally hydrating refreshment, rather than volunteer tasting notes on some Mercenary Vortex Triple IPA that’s been exposed to wild yeasts in upstate New York. I’ll take a relaxed sinking-in over instances of who’s-drank-what when it comes to beer-hangs. Read also: french fries, iceberg lettuce, Nescafé, ZZ Top and Jim Beam. All of those things are great in context and you know it.
It also points to creative engagement for me. I started this project after much deliberation, all with high intention because, seriously, if people are going to let you into their lives in some tiny sense you better make it good. I seek other channels to fuel inspiration for this space often, and it helps tremendously. A real-life scheduled job, music, books about alternate realities, films about wars, travel, extreme landscapes; there’s always something there. Right now, I’m certain that if I abandoned the site, I would be a person without dreams (is that corny/dramatic? Whatever.). When you push yourself to live and die by the project, the approach feels new and refreshingly frenzied every time. It’s helped me grow a lot.
Anyway, all of this is just to say thanks for sticking with me. Two years of many kinds of messes later, and it feels like we’re doing just fine :)
a salad with all of the peas, potatoes, acidulated shallots + creamy dill dressing
notes: The dressing is your homie here. It’s so good. Tangy, lightly sweet, flecked with dill, creamy but not in a ew-it’s-still-coating-my-tongue kind of way. Make it for this salad or make it for other stuff, seriously. I also “acidulate” the shallots to soften their bite a bit–just covering them in vinegar while the rest of the salad happens. Super simple technique, super delicious results.
acidulated shallots ingredients:
1 small shallot, cut into thin half moons
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
creamy dill dressing ingredients:
1/3 cup mixed raw cashews + sunflower seeds (I’d say 3/4 of that should be cashews), soaked in water for at least 2 hours
juice of 1/2 a lemon
splash of the vinegar from the shallots
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp – 1tbsp raw agave nectar/honey
splash of water (enough to get the motor of your blender moving–like 3 tbsp-ish)
fat pinch of salt
lots of black pepper
3-4 sprigs of dill, leaves removed and chopped
1 small shallot, cut into thin half moons
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
8 small new potatoes
4-5 big handfuls of pea shoots
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1-2 cups snap peas, cut in half down the center
handful of snow peas, chopped
additional sprouts if you feel it (I added some radish sprouts)
extra dill to garnish
more salt + pepper
Place the sliced shallots in a small bowl and cover them with the red wine vinegar. Let the shallots soften up in this until you’re ready to serve the salad.
Make the dressing: throw all of the ingredients except for the dill into a blender and blend on high until you have a creamy, homogenous mixture. Thin out with additional water until you get an appropriate dressing consistency. Pour the dressing into a jar and stir in the chopped dill. Set aside.
Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place them on the stove over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, run some cold water over them and set aside to cool.
Arrange the pea shoots on the base of your serving platter. Scatter the acidulated shallots, shelled peas, snap peas, and chopped snow peas on top of the shoots. Cut the cooled potatoes into quarters and arrange them on top. Season the whole thing from up high with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over top. Garnish with additional sprouts and extra dill sprigs and serve it up.
Let’s talk about dreams for a second. I have huge ones and I’m going to revel in a particular vision right here, so just indulge me for a second. Some day, I hope to roll up to a respectable newsstand and lay eyes on an equally respectable cooking publication, emblazoned with the predictable “SUMMER GRILLING ISSUE” thing and whoa, there won’t be a greased-up burger or a sauce-smothered mountain of ribs on the cover. Am I waiting on a new publication entirely/looking for (plant-based) love in all the wrong places? These timely summer volumes always have some veggie options hiding within, and great ones most certainly, but that predominant fire = meat mindset is old hat to me (stating the obvious for the win). Hippie dippy dreams much? I’ve moved on I suppose.
And by that, I mean that I’ve made you something really deluxe for your own barbecue adventures (onwards + upwards!). I do love some simple grilled vegetables with a nice bit of oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs, whatevs. They’re a fuss-free addition to dinner that has everyone rolling with the health wave. You can sip a very cold beer (or an equally cold kombucha) while lazily flipping them for even char. Everything about that is completely right. But I wanted to make something main course-appropriate that fed into my health warrior inclinations. Cauliflower, tempeh, a jerk-ish marinade, ginger-mango-miso dressing and a crucial grilled greens method to the rescue.
Both the marinade and the mango sauce have an extra few ingredients, but I found a lot of them were pantry items for me (and there’s overlap between the two recipes). And the sauce is so worth it–it’s sweet, salty, ginger-spicy and has a lovely not-too-thick consistency–basically tasty and fitting on everything it touches. The grilled greens method is something I picked up when I was interning at a restaurant. The greens would go for a dip in a soy, red wine, herb + spice mix, go right to the grill, smothered in an old sheet pan and two minutes later: perfect tender greens. I kind of massage mine in a lime-y soy mix rather than dunking them outright. The method speaks to laid back dinners outside for sure.
Anyway, a little preparation on your part means dinner made entirely on the grill and some chill time outside afterward, which I’m pretty sure is something we’re all after in these warmer days. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pestering my man about a beach trip for a while, and all the plans that I could possibly dream up for the next few months are kind of hazy and sunset-hued. My cruiser’s been in for a little tune up and is riding very smoothly. Feels like we’re right on the edge of summer’s gifts, right? Soak it in, all :)
jerk-style veggie grill w/ tempeh, greens and mango-ginger-miso sauce
notes: Any vegetable is fair game here. I chose cauliflower mostly to see what it was like on the grill. Also, I realize this jerk marinade mix is probably not authentic, hence my use of the word “style” in there. Let’s let the authenticity thing go for a bit? K THX.
mango-ginger-miso sauce ingredients:
1/2 cup diced fresh mango
1 small shallot, peeled + rough chopped
1-2 inch piece of ginger, peeled + rough chopped
1 tsp light miso
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup/agave/raw honey
1 tsp hot toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
salt + pepper
jerk-style marinade ingredients:
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
juice of 1 lime
splash of tamari
4 green onions, rough chopped (+ extra to garnish if you like)
1 hot pepper (I used a jalapeño because dang those scotch bonnets are hot), seeded + rough chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled + rough chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled + rough chopped
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground allspice
salt + pepper
grilled greens + veggies:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into thick slices
1 block of tempeh, cut into triangles
as much cleaned greens as you want to eat (spinach, chard, collards + kale are all good)
tamari soy sauce
salt + pepper
cooked quinoa, rice, millet etc for serving (I had some black lentils + quinoa in the fridge)
sesame seeds for garnish
Make the dressing: throw all of the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend/process until a creamy and smooth mixture is achieved. Store in a resealable container and set aside, keeping it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Make the marinade: throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend/process until a smooth puree is achieved. Place the cauliflower and tempeh pieces in a large ceramic dish and pour the marinade over top. Let it sit in this mix for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the grill to high. In a large bowl, toss the greens with a splash of oil, some tamari and lime juice to taste, salt and pepper. Set the bowl aside. Oil the grill lightly and place the marinated cauliflower and tempeh on top. Grill until char marks appear on both sides, about 2-5 minutes per side, depending. Transfer the tempeh and cauliflower to an area of the grill that doesn’t put them in direct contact with flame as they finish. In a general way, I find the cauliflower benefits from a bit of extra time. Don’t be finicky with them. Letting them sit means a lower occurrence of sticking. In the last moments of the cauliflower and tempeh grilling, place the greens onto a spot on the grill, trying to keep them tightly together. Put a heavy pot lid down on top of the greens and let them cook until slightly wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Lightly toss them once to promote even wilting. Remove everything from the grill and serve with mango sauce, cooked quinoa/rice etc. Garnish with sesame seeds and extra green onions.
Hello, hello! Going to be a bit of a dine and dash today. Life is extraordinarily full at the moment and wouldn’t you know, my yearly spring cold has arrived just in time. I’m on the mend, sniffling just a bit and seeing the light. A touch of sickness can be this little blessing in disguise sometimes. It forces a powering down, some self love in the form of cozy hot drinks, and rest! Oh gosh, the rest. It demands a nourishing and mindful response. There’s a once-again new perspective on wellness, a few life things sorted out, fresh sheets on the bed, windows wide open, and the world is brand new.
Anyway, as I’m pulling out of this sniffly business, I’m getting a little more excited to meet all of the endeavours face to face. I’m anticipating the madness a little more positively because I’ve got myself a little plan. Wanna hear it? Enjoy the crazy. Frolic in the crazy even. I’m usually a put-your-head-down-and-work-til-it’s-over type when it comes to mastering the tasks of life. I’m trying to make laser beam focus coexist with pleasure and I think it’s gonna be pretty rad.
So I made you some potstickers too. They have little cuts of sweet spring vegetables, tender shreds of new cabbage, lots of ginger (sinus clearing yay!), fresh mint and an insanely delicious maple and soy dip, all flecked with sesames, scallions and chili flakes. I love pretty much anything in the dumpling category because you get to hunch over the plate in anticipation of filling overflow/sauce drips. They demand fully vested eating and are generally always delicious. Also, every culture has one, which obviously points to their inherently good + true nature. These look finicky, but they’re honestly VERY hard to screw up. I worked for a chef that joked about wanting a house made from fried wonton wrappers once. These things are durable, I’m telling you. If you kind of manhandle them while you’re trying to pinch them shut, no worry. It’s gonna be fine.
spring vegetable potstickers w/ sweet chili soy dip
serves: makes about 24
notes: Check the ingredients on your package of wonton wrappers to ensure that they are vegan/free of nasties. You could also wrap the cooked veggies with boston lettuce leaves and nix the sauteeing step for a lighter option, or possibly try some rice paper wraps.
1 tbsp grapeseed or coconut oil, divided
1 small shallot, small dice
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
6-7 stalks of asparagus, woody ends snapped off + small diced
1 cup shelled fresh/frozen peas
1 cup shredded green cabbage
juice of 1 lime
salt + pepper
2 sprigs of mint, leaves chopped
24+ wonton wrappers
sweet chili soy dip ingredients:
¼ cup tamari or nama shoyu
2 tbsp maple syrup/raw honey/agave
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
couple drops of hot toasted sesame oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 green onion, thinly sliced on a bias
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Heat 1 ½ teaspoons of the grapeseed oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and ginger to the pan. Stir them up and cook until fragrant and shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, peas and cabbage to the pan. Sauté until the peas and asparagus are bright green and the cabbage is slightly wilted. Add the lime juice, season the mixture to taste and remove from the heat. Add the mint, stir, and allow the mixture to cool.
Divide the vegetable filling amongst the wonton wrappers, placing about 2 teaspoons of it in the center of each wonton square. Moisten half of the edges with a bit of water and fold the potstickers up, pinching the tops shut as you go.
Wipe out the sauté pan and heat the remaining grapeseed oil on medium heat. Fry the potstickers in batches until they’re golden brown on both sides, about ½-1 full minute per side. Introduce more oil to the pan as needed to finish them up.
For the sweet chili soy dip, whisk all of the ingredients together. Serve the potstickers hot with the dip on the side.
Have I ever told you how this blog came to be a real thing? As in an internet real thing? My friend Michelle pushed me to do it. It took a bit of convincing. I generally liked food blogs, but was also annoyed by them all the same. The more I mulled over the actual existence of it, the less I thought I had to contribute to people’s actual lives in a productive sense. I knew a few things about cooking, had studied nutrition and held some very solid dinner parties in my time (including that one where I made straight bourbon slushies with little more than a sprig of mint to “soften the blow”), but a regular log of that stuff–where people can see it and generally like or be annoyed by it too? Eeeeeenh. It took me a solid bit of time, waffling between the reasons why or why not (see what I did there?).
And my friend kept at it until I dredged up the gumption essentially. She would gently nudge me on what I could contribute in a real way. There were texts asking me about a particular ingredient or cooking technique, with the obligatory reminder that qualified the creation of a site. Jokingly, she would mention its sheer benefit to her own life with food.
So I tried making and photographing a few things with a purchased domain just kind of sitting there. I agonized about those first recipes. They weren’t good enough, I hated the photos (I have an embarrassed fondness for a lot of my old photos now), the whole thing felt kind of silly (“blog” as an actual word, bluh awful)–just riffing on healthy seasonal foods to a solid following of 12 people (hey mom!).
Nowadays, the number of readers is a bit higher and this project has contributed a lot of (sometimes crazy) greatness to my life. I’ve only been tempted 4 times that I can remember to start a post with “Guys, I hate blogging. Fuuuuuuu–” …So, many wins. But still, every little speck of opportunity I get because of it, you betcha I’m letting my instigating friend hear about it first and foremost. This usually leads to a blitz of !!!’s and “Holy shit!” kind of texts, which is pretty much the most fun. I was compelled to talk about this here, to serve as a reminder of the serious abundance she’s helped bring into my life and why I keep at this thing. What I’m driving at here: You need to keep the good + positive people around you, to remind you that a blog isn’t always the silliest thing in the world. Or to just help you work towards actually creating and becoming something to wave from up high with all of your pride.
Since Michelle is pretty keen on pointing out that I probably just want to post breakfast treats all the time (I do), I made some waffles for y’all this week–with my first bunch of rhubarb that I bought from a really sweet lady on the side of the road over the weekend. She weighed the bunch on an old-time-y scale, questioning its accuracy as the bunch seemed to thicken rather tremendously. I brought it home and stewed half of it with tons of vanilla bean flecks, orange zest and juice, and slid the mushy heap of it right onto the tops of golden, yeasted buckwheat-y waffles. What could be better enjoyed outside in a spring splendour? Nothin’ at all.
Did you know that rhubarb and buckwheat are botanical relatives in the category of pseudocereals? I thought this was kind of interesting for a few reasons. Both ingredients seem to take a few tries to fully appreciate for one. Buckwheat flour has a bitter, wine-y quality that requires thoughtful pairing in a general sense–in blinis with smoked fish + horseradish, mixed into pancakes with roasted pears, as noodles in fragrant + perfectly salty/pork-y ramen broth. Its aroma is sweet and colour delightfully purple-ish heather grey (this tends to fade throughout the course of cooking/baking). Rhubarb is notoriously sour, and like buckwheat, not often enjoyed on its own. Pairings of berries, heavy cream and heaps of sugar are utilized with frequency and um yep, it’s pretty delicious with riesling and other white wines. So I thought that the two together would make a very happy union, one offering up what the other lacked with an enthusiastic drizzle of maple syrup, a heavy hand of wholewheat pastry flour to balance the assertiveness of the buckwheat and flecks of warm spice throughout the waffle. We ate them outside in the shade, perched at the tiniest patio table, completely full in all ways imaginable.
Waving hello from some strange (but wonderful) summer-in-spring weather, bike rides + new albums on repeat. xo!
raised buckwheat waffles + vanilla bean braised rhubarb
notes: You have the option to raise the batter on the counter for 1 hour before you plan to cook the waffles OR for a 1/2 hour on the counter + a covered overnight rest in the fridge for extra developed flavour from the yeast. The stewed rhubarb remains pleasantly sour, so I would recommend serving these with some maple syrup on the side for the lovers of sweetness in the am hours.
raised buckwheat waffles ingredients:
1 cup warm almond milk (or other milk that you like)
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 tbsp raw honey/maple syrup/agave
2 1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil + extra to grease waffle iron
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup wholewheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
2 tbsp warm water
pinch of fine sea salt
vanilla stewed rhubarb ingredients:
1/2 lb rhubarb, cleaned + cut into 3-4 inch pieces
1/4 cup maple syrup + extra to serve
zest + juice of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
In a medium-large non reactive bowl, combine the warm almond milk and yeast. Let the yeast dissolve and become part of the milk for a few minutes.
To the almond milk and yeast, add the honey, oil and vanilla. Give it a stir. Add the buckwheat and wholewheat flours, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir until just combined, then add the water and stir one more time. over the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1/2 an hour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight (or let the batter sit on the counter for a full hour and go from there if you’re okay with slightly less developed flavour).
Meanwhile, make the braised rhubarb. Combine the rhubarb, maple syrup, orange zest + juice and vanilla bean seeds in a medium saucepan (throw the vanilla pod in while it cooks too). Let it sit over medium heat until there’s some faint bubbling. Let the rhubarb cook until soft and syrup-y, about 12 minutes. Set it aside or keep it warm until you’re ready to serve the waffles.
Remove the batter from the fridge and stir in the fine sea salt. Let the batter rest while you preheat the waffle iron. I find a higher done-ness level is desirable with yeasted waffles in general, so there’s that. Grease the waffle iron and cook waffle batter according to your maker’s directions (almost 1/2 the batter per waffle in the iron for 3 minutes or so for me). Enjoy waffles warm with the stewed rhubarb.