Spring

Avocado Pizza + Arugula, basil, & lime

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You guys. I won't disappear for months again, OK. I've got it together now. (Fingers crossed). This pizza is surprising. Its creamy rich avocado-y goodness baked into the crust. Balanced by the bitter/sweet arugula/lime/basil topping. OH MY. Seriously. Don't add cheese. It is SO good without. You want to let the beauty of the avocado shine on through.

Keeping on with that plan is another works in Food & Fiction.


SPIDER BY THE LIGHT

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.

Four soft, tiny wings

fell gently where the door swings.

Spider's full belly

wing skeletons for kelly.

It once was a moth

flying on wings of silk cloth.

Guilt entered my mind

To all but light, moth was blind.

I turned off the light

no capture of moths tonight.

Palm spread eagerly

gathering wings gingerly.

The wings are not waste

death. beauty. forever encased.

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.


RECIPE - Makes 2 pizzas (feeds 4)

Dough (Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart's neo-neopolitian pizza dough)

2 Cups + 2TB - unbleached bread flour (or all purp flour)

1/2TB - Honey

3/4tsp - active dry yeast

1 Cup + 1TB - warm water (between 100 - 110 degrees F)

1TB - Olive oil

  1. Combine the warm water, honey, and yeast in a small bowl. Whisk until dissolved & let it sit aside for 5 - 10 minutes until it starts to bubble/foam. Then combine your yeast mixture, flour, & salt into a mixer & mix on low speed for 1 minute with a dough hook. (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon). Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes. This step lets the dough fully hydrate.
  2. Change your mixer speed to medium-low for 2 -3 minutes (or continue mixing by hand). The bread is done when it feels somewhere between tacky & sticky. It should still be really easy to work with. If you feel it is too wet add another TB of flour. If you feel it is to dry, add another TB of water. Turn the dough out onto an oiled sheet pan & divide into two pieces. Form these two pieces into rounds & place equal distance a part on the sheet pan. Cover the top with plastic wrap & place in your fridge overnight.
  3. 1.5 hours ahead of pizza baking time, remove the pizza from the fridge so it has time to warm up & proof in room temperature before baking. Now move onto pizza baking step.

Avocado Base + Toppings

2 - Avocados

4 - garlic cloves, peeled

6TB - Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Handfuls - fresh arugula

1 Handful - fresh basil

1/4 - Medium/small red onion, slivered

2 - Limes

Salt/pepper - to taste

  1. After letting the pizza dough ferment in the fridge overnight, take the dough out of the fridge 1.5 hours prior to baking to let it warm up to room temp. Place a baking stone in the oven & preheat it to 500 degrees. If you do not have a baking stone then get out a large baking sheet & lightly oil it, but still preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a small blender such as a smoothie blender or small food processor, combine the avocado meats, 5TB oil, garlic cloves, juice of one lime, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. It should be spreadable but still thick. The thickness will depend on the ripeness of your avocados. If you think it is just too thick, thin it out with a tiny bit of water. Set this aside.
  3. In a large bowl toss together your arugula, basil, and red onion. Whisk together the lime juice of your other lime and last TB of olive oil. Toss this together with the arugula mixture and lightly season with salt & fresh ground pepper. Use your hands to toss this mixture together (slightly massaging the greens). Set this aside until later.
  4. Roll out one of the pizza dough rounds on a floured surface and if you are baking using the baking sheet, place on the oiled baking sheet. Top the pizza with half of the avocado mixture & spread evenly with a spoon. Then transfer it into the oven & bake for about 15 -20 minutes (until it is cooked & the crust starts to golden). If you are baking on a pizza stone then open your oven & use a glove to pull out the rack the baking stone is on. Drop on the pizza crust, quickly top with half of the avocado mixture (spreading with a spoon), and close the oven. It will be done in about 10 minutes or less (until it is cooked & starting to golden in spots).
  5. Once the pizza is cooked, remove from oven either with a metal spatula or with mittens & place on a cutting board. Top with half of the arugula mixture, slice, & enjoy!
  6. Repeat process with second pizza dough.


A deep oregano & chile sauce + roasted mushroom tacos

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You should turn me in for neglect. I'm guilty of blog abandonment. I apologize and I want to commit to once-a-week again with you but I don't want to be called out on broken promises and leave you with that empty feeling. For now tacos (as I always say - the perfect food) will fill this physical emptiness. Although, I am sad to say there is still a void to be mentioned. We lost Gabriel Garcia Marquez last month. I want to thank him for his contributions to magical realism with an excerpt from one of his famous novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and of course, with tacos.


When they woke up, with the sun already high in the sky, they were speechless with fascination. Before them, surrounded by ferns and palm trees, white and powdery in the silent morning light, was an enormous Spanish galleon. Tilted and slightly to the starboard, it had hanging from its intact masts the dirty rags of its sails in the midst of its rigging, which was adorned with orchids. The hull, covered with an armor or petrified barnacles and soft moss, was firmly fastened into a surface of stones. The whole structure seemed to occupy its own space, one of solitude and oblivion, protected from the vices of time and the habits of the birds. Inside, where the expeditionaries explored with careful intent, there was nothing but a thick forest of flowers. - Page 11 & 12 One Hundred Years of Solitude  by Gabriel García Márquez


 Gabriel García Márquez in 1975. Photograph: Isabel Steva Hernandez/Colita/Corbis

Gabriel García Márquez in 1975. Photograph: Isabel Steva Hernandez/Colita/Corbis


José Arcadio Buendeía had not through that this wife's will was so firm. He tried to seduce her with the charm of his fantasy, with the promise of a prodigious world where all one has to do was sprinkle some magic liquid on the ground and the plants would bear fruit whenever a man wished, and where all manner of instruments against pain were sold at bargain prices. But Úrsula was insensible to his clairvoyance.

"Instead of going around thinking about your crazy inventions, you should be worrying about your sons," she replied. "Look at the state they're in, running wild just like donkeys."

José Arcadio Buendía too his wife's words quite literally. He looked out the window and saw the barefoot children in the sunny garden and he has the impression that only at that instant has they began to exsit, conceived by Úrsula's spell. Something occurred inside of him then, something mysterious and definitive that uprooted him from his own time and carried him adrift though an unexplored region of memory...

...But since the afternoon when he called the children in to help him unpack the things in the laboratory, he gave them his best hours. In the small separate room, where the walls were gradually being covered by strange maps and fabulous drawings, he taught them how to read and write and do sums, and he spoke to them about the wonders of the world, not only where his learning had extended, but forcing the limits of his imagination to extremes. It was in that way that the boys ended up learning  that the southern extremes of Africa there were men so intelligent and peaceful that their only pastime was to sit and think, and that it was possible to cross the Aegean sea on foot by jumping from island to island all the way to the port of Salonika. - Page 13 & 15, One Hundred Years of Solitude  by Gabriel García Márquez



Recipe : Makes a large batch of sauce good for eating with friends or for freezing.

Garlic - 6 cloves, chopped

Sweet onion - 1/2 medium, sliced

Mushroom broth - (or veggie) 2 Cups

Oregano - Dried (3TB)

Pasilla chilies - 3 (dried)

Chipotle chilies - 4 (dried)

Tomato paste - 3 ounces (1/2 a small can)

Diced tomatoes - 16 ounce can

Oregano - fresh (1TB) plus extra to top

Filling

Mushrooms - assortment. (shitakes, portobellos, oyster, cremini), quartered. At least 16ounes for 2-3 servings or more to share with friends!

Garlic - 2-3 cloves, minced

Olive oil - 4-6 TB (depending on how many mushrooms you make)

Salt - to taste

Cilantro - chopped

Avocado - sliced

Lime wedges - optional

Sour cream - optional

* Note: If making homemade tortillas (recipe link below), you might want to make them first to have them ready and reheat. Or make them at the very end to have them piping hot.

Place the mushroom broth in a medium pot over medium heat with the dried oregano and dried chiles ( cut the dried stalks off the chiles). Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. Then stir the mixture to get everything hydrated and let it sit to infuse, covered, ideally for an hour.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Chop up the rest of your veggies for the sauce & filling (garlic, onion, and mushrooms). Toss all the mushrooms in a bowl with the olive oil, 2 -3 cloves of garlic, and some salt. After the mushrooms are coated, spread it on a sheet pan and place into the preheated oven. Roast for 15 minutes and then check on the mushrooms. If there is a ton of liquid in the pan, pour it out, and then return it to the oven for another 15 minutes. Check your mushrooms again. I only needed to roast mine for a total of 30 minutes but, depending on your mushrooms - they might need a little longer.

Now back to the sauce. Once the broth is infused, pour it out into a bowl and set aside. Put the pot back over medium low heat and add in the garlic, onion, and 2TB olive oil. Let them soften, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and do your best to stir/incorporate it with a spoon for a minute. Add in the diced tomatoes and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Then add in the mushroom broth/chile mixture, stirring, until it reaches a simmer. Once it simmers for a few minutes, pour the mixture into a blender and blend several minutes until smooth. Pour the mixture back into a pot and bring to a simmer and let it cook down into a nice thick sauce for about 10 -15 minutes, scraping the pot frequently. Season with salt.

Place your roasted mushrooms in a corn tortilla (recipe here) and then top, liberally, with sauce. Now you embellish: spoon over some sour cream (if desired), top with avocado slices, sprinkle with cilantro, and squeeze over lime juice. Enjoy with loved ones over magical realism.

Herby, scallion & leek pancakes made with chickpea flour


Story 4 in Food & Fiction


My sketchers were mostly white, a little dusty from the walk. I was now standing with the trees to my back. I peered into the field in front of me. There a large rock had anchored itself into the earth, breaking the horizon. I adjusted the stick resting on my shoulder, the contents in the bandana at the end bounced slightly. So far, this was the farthest I had traveled alone from home before. I watched for ticks on my socks as I moved through the tall grass, just how my Dad showed me. The amber bristles tried to paint my legs as I walked. They tickled past me in waves. I floated across the sea. Drifting steadily towards the island.

The rock was part concrete. It was a ruin? A shipwreck? I inspected the base and found old bits of newspaper stuck to the hardened mixture. I was curious at my discovery. I dropped my bundle, crushing the saltine crackers which were so preciously tucked into my knapsack. It was one of the few items I selected for my journey. I tried to read the bits of newspaper, trying to find clues or a date. It was unreadable and I moved on. There were little imprints of leaves hardened into the concrete. I spent what felt like hours tracing fossilized leaf veins with my finger tips. I loved my rock, it was my secret of unknown histories. I climbed on top of my ship and looked out at my grass ocean. It swayed gently, the waters were calm. I sat down and hugged my legs to my chest and sipped on a mini plastic bottled water I brought. I marooned myself.

After awhile I poked through my supplies and I sprinkled the crushed saltines in the grass for the birds. The last thing I packed was my journal. I stared at the cover. It was denim with a rhinestone butterfly. I opened the inside cover and read my own hand, it said "Do not read. Please." I obeyed my own rule and closed the journal. I tried to remember why I came out here by myself, why I wanted to run away. I had been angry, that is all. I could not remember anymore, all that mattered was my oasis. A silent place with something no one else found interesting. From my lookout I saw a car coming down the road that cut through the field. The car kicked up a cloud behind it. I jumped down and hid behind my rock... I did not want to expose my location. The car passed and my hideout was safe. I folded the journal back up into the bandana and tied it in a knot at the end of my stick, like I had seen in cartoons. I began to worry that sharing my saltine crackers with the birds was a mistake... a grave error in my operation. I knew there was more food back at the house... but should I return?

I looked back from where I had come, I could see my house from behind the trees. It's red brick peaking through the planted evergreens.  I wasn't far away from my home after all. I could come back to my oasis whenever in need. I headed back towards the tree harbor... to shallower grass waters of the back yard. I had not even been gone an hour.

Years later, long after the rock was hauled away, the field was leveled, homes were built, and I had moved away; I would think about that oasis. Some things, like that rock, just exist somewhere out-of-place. But really, they are exactly where they need to be.

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Recipe (Servers 2)

Chickpea Flour - 3/4 Cup

Baking powder - 1TB

Egg - 1

Butter - 4TB, melted

Milk - 2/3 Cup

Ground coriander - 1 tsp

Fresh Herbs - 1/3 cup - 1/2 cup, chopped. (I used dill, cilantro, and parsley)

Olive oil - 1TB

Leek - 1 - sliced into thin half rounds

Scallions - 3, sliced thin (using both the white & the green part)

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Salt/pepper - to taste

Chard - 1/2 a bundle (enough for a handful or two), chopped

Lemon juice - 1/2 a fresh lemon (scant 1TB)

Butter or coconut oil (of other fat/oil) to coat pan for cooking pancakes

Chop up  leeks, scallions, herbs, and garlic, then set aside. Trim and chop up the chard into slivers. Place in a bowl with the lemon juice and a tiny pinch of salt & drizzle of olive oil. Toss the chard and then place in the fridge to marinate while you make the rest.

Add the 1TB olive oil to a medium skillet on medium low heat. Let it get warm and them add the garlic, toss for a minute, then add the scallions & leeks. Cook, tossing occasionally, for several minutes to soften. Turn off the heat and then dump the mixture into a bowl. Set these cooked onions aside for now.

In a large bowl mix together the chickpea flour, baking powder, coriander, 1/2tsp of salt, and a 1/2tsp of pepper. Stir this together and then make a well in the center. Add the egg, milk, and melted butter. Combine well with a fork until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps. Add in the cooked scallion mixture and fresh chopped herbs. Combine well.

Heat a small amount of butter or other oil in the same medium skillet - just enough to coat the surface - over medium heat. Once warm, place a heaped 1/4 cup serving of batter into the skillet. Let it cook several minutes, until bubbles are coming up in the center of the pancake. Flip and then cook a few more minutes on the other side. Repeat this with the rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes warm with a generous handful of lemony chard piled on top. You can also serve with a dollop of high-quality sour cream or creme fraiche. This is completely optional. Next time I'd go without - but it makes the photos look nice! Makes two large servings.


Aushak, for the vegetarian

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I've explained my love for Afghan food in an earlier post here. One of the most interesting things about Afghan food is the significance it has with family. Most families have versions of dishes such as Aushak (or ashak) and curries that are unique to that family. Traditions past on through the act of doing, sharing, eating rather than through recipe notecards and magazines. One beautiful aspect of Afghan meal time is the dastarkhan. The "space" for eating a meal. Sometimes (I believe usually with larger family gatherings and special guests) a dastarkhan is used to set the space for eating. It is a piece of fabric or tablecloth spread across the floor and then arranged with the various dishes, bread, curries, rice, meats, and beverage, usually tea. The dastarkhan is a sacred space, not to be walked across or sat upon, just a place that holds the sacredness of enjoying and sharing a meal with family. Often, there is a designated tea poured and food server because these jobs have meaning, even the arrangement of food is taken into consideration; it all has significance.

In our home, our table is typically strewn across with bits and pieces of whatever project I've been working on lately or whatever was in my hands when I walked in the door. Books, bags, laptops, keys, papers, glues, labels, mail, boxes... these all frequent my table more than actual food. I can spend so much time enjoying the preparation of the meal and, in the end, eating it can feel more of an afterthought because I don't bring the sacredness of enjoying a meal. Sometimes I have to clear a little placemat sized space open on the table just to eat... or we forgo it all and eat bowls of soup cuddled on the couch under a blanket. Don't get me wrong, couch eating has its place, but I should put as much intention into eating the food and enjoying the time to quite the mind, as I do while preparing the food. I feel as eating in a space with intention helps us to remain present. 

This aushak is delicious and, I promise, simple. It varies from the traditional a bit, but like I said, each family has their own version. It is typically a leek filled dumpling served with a yogurt sauce, spiced ground meat topping, and dried mint. This version combines leeks and scallions, steamed in peppery broth, and topped with a garlic-mint yogurt. Its wonderful and best enjoyed in a sacred space. If you do not want to make all the dumplings at once. Reserve the left over fillings and wonton wrappers separate. Already steamed dumplings do not keep well, so steam to order :). You can, of course, make your own pasta dough here, but this time I choose the quicker version of using pre-made wonton wrappers.

 

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Aushak (Makes about 35-40 dumplings)

Wonton wrappers - 1 package (at least 40 inside)

Leeks - 3 large, trimmed and chopping into thin half-moons

Scallions - 1 bunch, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds

Cayenne pepper - scant 1tsp, ground

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced very fine or grated in a microplane

Yogurt - 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt or greek yogurt

Mint - 2-3TB fresh, plus extra to garnish

Coconut oil - 3TB (Or evoo)

Whole pepper kernels - 1tsp

Mushroom (or veggie) broth - 2Cups (plus a little extra, if needed)

Salt/pepper - to taste

 

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Stir together the yogurt, 2 cloves worth of the garlic, and the fresh mint in a small bowl. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper and stir again, sit it aside for later. 

In a large skillet heat up the coconut oil on medium high heat. Add in the other clove of minced or grate garlic and the leeks/onions. Cook stirring frequently until softened. At least 5 minuets. You want them to be soft and buttery tasting but not mushy. Season with the cayenne and some salt and then turn off the heat. 

Heat up a medium skillet with a lid with 2 cups of the broth sprinkled with the whole peppercorns on medium low. You want to bring this mixture to a simmer and keep it there, keep it covered. Get out the wonton wrappers and a little bowl or cup of water. Lay out your wonton wrappers individually onto a clean surface. Spoon a small spoonful of the leek mixture into the center of each of the wontons. Then dip your finger into the water and spread two connecting edges of the wonton wrapper (one wonton at a time) with a strip of water. Fold the dry edges of the wonton wrapper over onto the wet edges, making a triangle and pinch together to seal. Make sure you only spread the water on one wonton at a time because the water will soak up/dry out so you need to fold it over right after you wet it. Repeat the process with all of your wontons. (If you aren't making all of them make sure you wrap the wonton wrappers up well so they don't dry out and keep the leek mixture separate). 

Once the broth is simmering, lay in the wonton wrappers in one flat layer, try not to let them touch or they will cook together. You will need to do this in batches. Return the cover to the skillet and let them simmer/steam in the broth for 3 minuets. You might, occasionally need to add in a little more broth as you cook the dumplings in batches, in case too much steams out. Removed from the broth with a spatula and lay on a plate, drizzle with the yogurt sauce and sprinkle with extra chopped mint, if desired, and serve warm. 

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Asparagus & arugula salad over mozzarella with mint & basil pesto

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Right, right, I know, I know, its 4th of July... I'm suppose to give you some grilling out masterpieces for you last minuet scrambling of grilling out plans and corn on the cobb marathons! Alas, I am doing the same thing, and decided to give you this recipe I made a little while back when I saw this salad in bon appetite. There is plenty of summer left for more grilling recipes and veggie burgers, in fact, we are just getting started.

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Recipe (served 4 as a side) 

Mozzarella - 1 ball, ripped into pieces

Asparagus - 1 bunch, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

Arugula - Two handfuls, fresh

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - 1TB

Salt/pepper - to taste

Pesto

Basil - fresh, 1 packed cup, chopped

Mint - fresh, 3-4TB, chopped

Shallot - 1 chopped

Sunflower seeds - 1/4cup soaked overnight or at least 4 hours, then drained

Garlic - 3TB, chopped

 

Olive oil - A few TB, drizzled in

Salt/pepper - to taste

Place all the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender, with 2TB olive oil. Blend until smooth, drizzling in more olive oil as needed until it is smooth. 

Rip the mozzarella into pieces and add in 2-3TB of pesto and massage the pesto in until the mozzarella is covered. Place 1TB of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and toss in the asparagus pieces. Cook for about 5-8 minutes until soft and squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and then toss the asparagus in a bowl with the fresh arugula. Spread the arugula and asparagus over the mozzarella and then sprinkle with a bit more pesto and salt/pepper or lemon if needed. 

Happy 4th!!

 

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Mint grilled zucchini over a radish & couscous salad

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This quote has really resonated with me lately...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

- Mark Twain

I can't even begin to explain all the thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis, equal parts rational and irrational. Last weekend we went rafting the arkansas river and there was a moment in calm water when the guide asked everyone in the boat what they did. I responded with... "I don't know what I do yet." The whole boat responded with silence. I kind of felt like I had just been flung out of the boat. Since leaving my jobs/obligations behind in Virginia and moving to Colorado I have been applying to full-time jobs, and nothing has quite worked out yet. I do a few other creative things on the side but nothing that provides with me a solid, reliable, income. I feel like I am putting too much hope into that one, perfect, thing and maybe I am wrong in that. There is value in everything and as much as I live by exploring, dreaming, and discovering I am too stationary right now. I need to dive into something, forget any little tid bits of fault I find, and go for it. As Mark Twain advises, the only thing I'll regret is not doing it rather than the latter. 

Speaking of rafting, I did a considerable amount of cooking on the raft... and by that I mean with the two main ingredients consisting of the sun and my legs. My thighs have swelled up like plump little tomatoes. So you can picture me waddling around in my leggings and bathing in lotion despite the fact that is is summer and I want nothing to do with leggings. I only wish I had already had my sunburn remedy prepared... alas, this grilled zucchini over couscous salad will have to do. 

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Recipe (serves a crowd)

Zucchini - as many as you feel like eating (I made about 3 medium ones) cut into thin strips.

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Mint - 3TB fresh, chopped

Salt & pepper - I like to use coarse sea salt here and generous amounts of fresh cracked pepper.

Couscous - 2 cups dried couscous (I used whole wheat)

Radishes - 1 bunch, chopped into half moons

Green onions - 1 bunch, slivered

Parsley - 4TB chopped

Kalamala olives -  1/4 cup pits removed, chopped in half

Extra virgin olive oil - 4TB

Fill a medium saucepan with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Add in your couscous and turn off the heat, let it sit covered and absorb the water. It will take about 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, chop up all your other ingredients. Once the couscous is ready, pour it into a mixing bowl and fluff with a fork while adding in 2TB of olive oil. Add in your chopped radishes, green onions, kalamala olives, and parsley. Stir, then season to taste with salt and pepper - I am pretty generous with it. I also think it would be delicious to add in some almonds or walnuts here. Set the come to couscous aside to come to room temperature. 

Place your other 2TB of olive oil, 2Tb of mint (reserving 1TB) and zucchini strips in a bowl and toss. Season with just a little bit of salt and pepper (a pinch or two) but not all of it. Heat up your grill or grill pan and then lay your strips of zucchini over and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side. (If using a grill pan, squeeze over the juice of a lemon and shake for a minute before dumping out onto a platter.) Remove the zucchini onto a platter and squeeze over the lemon juice and top with more course salt, cracked pepper, and the last TB of fresh mint. If there is any oil left in the bowl from tossing the zucchini, then drizzle that over top too. Serve the zucchini over the couscous or on the side.

Explore. Dream. Discover.  

 

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Baby artichoke & new potato breakfast hash

The Sun.

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Walking home from the dog park yesterday evening the air was so warm and dense on my skin. The day in Denver had been very hot, hot and dry. There were pillows of dandelion fluff rippling along the sidewalk. I've never seen dandelion gather and blanket the ground so thickly before. Little tuffs of the dandelion were floating around, I like to call them fairies. The sun was so low on the horizon that the fairies were illuminated as they bumped along in a sea of orange sun rays. The warmth felt so good, so peaceful on my mind, I closed my eyes to the bright sun rays ahead and kept walking. I allowed my skin to see for me, my eyes remained closed. My whole body soaked up the sun in sweet, warm kisses and the sun's brightness could still be seen through my closed eyelids. It felt like how it would feel to be walking into the sun. I floated along like one of the dandelion fairies. 

A poached egg, with its sunny yolk spilling out and touching everything in this dish; it is that low-horizon sun. 

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Recipe (serves two generously) 

New potatoes - (about 1/2 lb)  rinsed/slightly scrubbed and then quartered

Baby Artichokes - I used 7 but feel free to use a few less, trimmed and quartered

Lemon - 2 lemons

Parsley - 3-4TB chopped (fresh)

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced

Olive oil - about 4TB

Salt/pepper - to taste

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Trim your artichokes (Removing the hard outer petals until you reach the softer, paler inside ones - baby artichokes have less to remove and you don't have to trim out the hairy choke (since there is none on the babies, yay!) . Also trim off the top and bottom of the artichoke. If using larger artichokes there will be more to trim and also trim out the hairy, internal choke) then quarter the hearts. Bring a medium pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil, add in your potatoes. Let it low boil for about 5 minutes and then strain.

Add in 2TB of olive oil to a large skillet and turn on medium heat. Add in your minced garlic, let it cook for 1 minute and then add in your potatoes. Let it sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are almost cook and start to brown a bit. Add in your artichoke hearts. Keep sautéing for several more minutes until the artichokes begin to soften.  Add in a bit more olive oil if needed. Once the artichokes are cooked, squeeze in the juice of one and a half lemons and then add in the parsley. Cook for another minute and then season with salt/pepper. Divide the mixture between two plates and cover them to keep it warm until the poached eggs are ready (saving any oil left over in the pan and then add in your last 2TB of olive oil into the pan and set aside for later).

While the mixture is sautéing make your poached eggs. (Tip a cracked egg into about 3-4 inches of slightly simmering water (mixed with 1TB apple cider vinegar) and then use a wooden spoon to gently swirl the water towards the egg in order to keep the whites as close together as possible. Let it simmer for about 4 minutes and remove with a large slotted spoon, let the water drain. Top each hash portion with a poached egg. Place your egg yolk into a small mixing bowl and add in your last half of lemon juice, whisk together. Pour out and discard slightly less than half of your egg yolk/lemon mixture. Slowly, very slowly, drizzle in the oil from your pan (its ok if there are little garlic or herb bits in it) while whisking until the aioli slightly thickens up. Add a pinch of salt if needed, but it should been seasoned from the leftovers in the pan. Drizzle the aioli over the two dishes. Top with more parsley and cracked pepper if desired. Eat in the sun. 

 

 

 

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Tofu-q with a habanero, apricot bbq sauce + avocado & cabbage slaw.

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I'm sitting here in a coffee shop near my house enjoying a big cookie and a cappuccino, with two dogs at my feet, and acting like I've been a Denver resident my whole life. Ok... maybe thats how I feel but, in reality, I probably don't look that way.  Especially when I get on the light rail and ride 10 minutes before I realize I should have been on the bus, abandon mission, and trek half-way through the city by foot. This coffee shop has some parallels to the shop I worked in during college, so I really like it. It serves up giant cookies like the onces we baked, has comically large milk pitchers, offers you drinks in pint glasses meant for beer, has a large loose leaf tea selection, friendly baristas, bakes in-house, is next door to a bar, has a well-loved and welcomed slightly-crazy, semi-homeless person who leaves his bag behind the counter, is not over-decorated, really needs new tables/chairs, and serves up decent coffee with good foam but without the fancy, high-coffee style that comes with perfect pours. Give me a single shot cappuccino in a small cup spilling over with foam and I'm happy. 

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Anyways, I'm getting use to this place. Denver that is, not just the coffee shop. Although I do miss the trees and my dogs miss the grass. Don't get me wrong. There are lots of trees planted in Denver and it is a beautiful, green, cheery place but I'm use to being able to drive 5 or 10 minutes down the road and let myself and my dogs free and go trail running through a deciduous forest. I miss that... those plants and trees are friends I have left behind. Even though my dogs miss grass (it is too dry of a place to grow grass in dog parks and waste precious water resources by watering a lawn solely meant for dogs to pee on... which is a responsible thing for the city to do) they have so much to do, see, smell here. Everyone loves dogs and almost everyone has dogs. Seriously, our first morning here was an insane welcome with the manager of the restaurant we brunched at buying us "welcome to Denver, we love dogs cocktails" and providing us a list of dog-friendly Denver activities. 

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Last weekend we took advantage of the holiday weekend since Ty had Monday off work and we headed out towards The Great Sand Dunes National Park for some camping.  On Saturday we camped at a place called The Orient Land Trust where they have natural hot springs. This true, off-grid community can be found several miles off the highway on a dirt road. You know those types of roads that make you feel like you are in a secret, secluded place as the dirt kicks up around your car in a cloud that streams down the road as the largest feature in a broad, flat landscape. It is a special place. We were hoping to get a walk-in camping spot even though no one answered our morning call. Being Memorial Day weekend we arrived to find all the camping spaces filled up, they have a strict daily entry limit, and I was still hoping we could sweet-talk in a place for our tent. Fortunately they let us pitch our tent at some of the trail heads but we were not allowed to go to the hot springs. It was a little disappointing but more than understandable, we did take some beautiful hikes and watched the low-horizon sun play rumpelstiltskin on all the desert plants by turning them to gold before our eyes.  The rockies were dark silhouettes with a sunset cloak patterned in never-ending colors. Gawking over the sunset our dogs pricked up their ears and turned in the direction of the howling coyotes nearby and watched eagerly at the deer and elk grazing. We had the whole place to ourselves and in that moment we were the only ones. 

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The next day we woke up early and got to the sand dunes around 8 in the morning, before the welcome center even opened. I've been to a similar desert before and I know how hot the sand can turn under the fierce afternoon sun. There was only a handful of people at the dunes so early, lucky for us. (If you plan on going I recommend going early. When we left there was a streaming tail of cars filled with impatient faces waiting to get in.) We trekked the dunes from 8-12 and banjo sniffed the sand, pawed at it playfully and ran around in circles like she does in the snow. We kept climbing up big peaks, pausing to take in the view and then sprinted in a path straight down the dunes as fast as we could, with both hands failing in the air. Eventually we had to turn back even though each new dune peak was taunting us; begging to be climbed. The sand heated up and we had left our shoes behind at the car, while puppy paws had received an exfoliation treatment better than any spa could do. I love the duney desert, the grit in the air, salt in your mouth, and the wind in your hair. Leaving the dunes you resolve to an awe over how diverse and beautiful this country is. I've now seen this country from tippy-top north to low-country south and from east to almost west; it is truly magnificent. The weekend was for the spirit of remembrance, and gratefulness. Despite the bad, we have a whole country filled with beautiful things to be grateful for.

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On memorial day we felt a responsibility to use our roommates grill. After-all, it was Memorial Day, we are American, and neither of us had lived with a real grill before. Still sandy and with skin warm-to-the-touch, these spicy, tofu-q's with a cooling slaw hit the spot. You really want to factor in at least a few hours of marinating time, you can even leave it in the refrigerator overnight. 

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Tofu & sauce recipe (Makes 2 big ones) 

Buns - 2 buns

Extra firm tofu package - Pressed for 30 minuets and then sliced thinly.

Habaneros - 3, chopped (I didn't take the seeds out but you can)

Apricot - 1, peeled/sliced (I think you could use 2 without it being too fruity tasting)

Onion - scant 1/2 a sweet, yellow onion, chopped. 

Tomatoes - 2, chopped

Tomato paste - 6oz can

Garlic - 3-4 cloves, chopped

Honey - 2-3 TB

Apple cider vinegar - 1Tb

Liquid smoke - 1tsp optional (vegetarian version)

Chile powder - 2tsp or 1TB - depending on your desire for spiciness. 

Cinnamon - scant 2tsp

Paprika - 2tsp

Salt- to taste (about 1-2tsp for me) 

Slaw recipe - also makes a good side

Purple cabbage - about 1/6 a small head of cabbage, slivered

Onion - 1/4 an onion, slivered

Avocado - 1, sliced

Limes - 2, juiced

Salt - to taste

 

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Press the tofu for about 30 minutes. Once pressed, sliced into thin "patties" the size of the tofu block. While the tofu is pressing make the sauce. Chop up all your vegetables. Place the olive oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add your garlic and onions and let it cook for a few minutes, until slightly soft. Add in your habaneros and apricots and let cook for a few more minutes until soft. Add in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until well combined and let cook for 3-5 minutes until soft, slightly bubbling, and evenly dispersed. Then add in all the rest of the ingredients and let cook for a few more minutes, until just fragrant. Add the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Adding in some water if needed to bring the sauce to the desired consistency. Taste and adjusted spices. Layer the tofu in between a generous amount of bbq sauce, making sure all the tofu is covered. Let it marinate on the counter for several hours (2-3 at least) or overnight in the fridge. The extra bbq can be stored for later use (think veggie kabobs or pizza sauce).

Heat up the grill (or grill pan) and cook the tofu straight on the grill (rubbed down with a little oil since tofu can stick) or cook on top of bamboo skewers on the grill (soaking the skewers in water for a hour first). Cook the tofu for about 5 minutes on each side. Brush over some more bbq sauce after flipping. We even threw our burger buns on the grill for 1 minute to crisp them up.

For the slaw, toss together the onion and cabbage. Add in the avocado and stir, slightly mashing up the avocado among the slivers of onion and cabbage. Squeeze over the lime and season with salt.  

To assemble the burger spread a little of the paprika aioli below (admit for vegan), top with strips of tofu and then pile on a good bit of slaw on top. No shame in adding some more bbq sauce too... bbq is suppose to be messy. Serve with grilled asparagus. 

 

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Grilled asparagus recipe + paprika aioli

Asparagus - 1lb with 1 inch of the ends trimmed off

Olive oil - 2Tb

Salt/pepper- to taste

Egg yolk - 1 large egg yolk

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - several TB

Paprika - scant 1 tsp

Salt/pepper - to taste

Pumpkin seeds - a handful, coarsely chopped (optional) .

To make the aioli add in the egg yolk, lemon juice, and salt into a small bowl. Beat with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a very small, steady stream while whipping with a whisk. The aioli with start to thicken up and lighten as you whisk. I let my aioli get to about a medium consistency since I didn't need much and didn't want to use too much oil. Add in the paprika and more salt and pepper if necessary. Whip until combined.

Toss the asparagus in a bowl with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Lay on a pre-heated grill and cook several minutes, rotating the spears with tongs. You want the asparagus to get soft, a little brown in spots, but still retain a slight crunch. Lay the asparagus on a tray, top with some aioli and the sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

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Sautéed ramps & lemon greens over parmesan hominy

Goodbye Charlottesville, hello Denver.

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This past week has been a beginning and an end, of sorts, for us. We were all set to leave Charlottesville, VA on Wednesday and head to Charlotte, NC to visit family before our move out to Denver, CO. I made my rounds of goodbyes in between packing, planning, cleaning, and daydreaming. There are people here in Charlottesville, as there have been people my whole life, who have been either friends, mentors, companions, acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers, and some people have been all of these things and more without knowing it. I need to say thank you to so many of you for opening doors to me, welcoming me with knowledge and friendship; especially at Sacred Plant Traditions, The Center for Historic Plants, and at Mudhouse.

There are several small moments which summarize the magic and love of Charlottesville. You know those little moments where a view, or a voice, or a place, a sound will make your head go tinglely and your whole body will flush with a golden warmness? Charlottesville gave me a number of those. There was a certain bend in the road while driving out to the farm we lived on that was sunken into the earth a bit. This road twisted through a thicket of beech and maple trees, their branches arching over the road to hold hands with their fellow trees on the other side. At nighttime you slowed down a great deal just to see the same clever fox bounding behind the trees and turning back to peer at you with his glowing eyes. There was a moment of unmentioned excitement as I would turn left onto the gravel road that bumped through the property I called home. My dogs would jump up and press their noses to the glass and watch, holding their pants, for any bunnies who have been out nibbling in the fields. The bunnies would twitch their ears in our direction and dart off into the thicker grasses at the sound of the slow, groaning, note of gravel on tires.

Another was the open view of the gently rolling mountains all cloaked in green after circling past the tiny, Charlottesville airport on the way to Chris Green Lake park. Or the way the mountains amused me in the winter after they shed their leaves and looked like the rumps of fuzzy sleeping animals on the horizon. Or the sweet, earthy, mixed smell of hay, blooming flowers, and rotting leaves at the Center for Historic Plants where I interned. Pure little moments that flood into gold before your eyes, like some lost form of alchemy. Many of these moments for me, are in my kitchen. Especially in the morning time when the air is still crisp and the world still. This little meal is an elegant thing and one of the last things I made before we left Charlottesville. There definitely is a moment of gold when you bite into it, you'll be scrapping your fork against the plate to get up any golden nuggets left behind.

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Recipe (Serves 2)

Ramps - a small handful

Arugula - a small handfull

Hominy - 1/2 cup (ground hominy) 

Parmesan - generous 1/4cup grated

 

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced.

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon and a few curls of zest to top

Olive oil - 2TB

Goat Cheese - a few crumbled of soft goat cheese to top

Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the ramps. Bring 2 cups of water with a pinch of salt in a small pot up to simmer. Once simmering add in your hominy and turn on low. Let it simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until cooked. After it is cooked add in your parmesan and stir to let it melt. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop out the hominy onto a serving dish.

Meanwhile, trim the root ends off the ramps and clean/trim them up if necessary. Mince up the garlic. In a medium skillet add in the olive oil on medium, medium-low heat. Add in your garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Toss in your ramps and gently sauté for about 2 minutes and then toss in the handful of arugula. Let it cook for another minute and squeeze in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and season with salt and generously with fresh pepper. Arrange the ramp and greens mixture on to of the hominy and top with a few crumbles of goat cheese and some lemon zest. Serve warm. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dandelion & sorrel pesto for spring.

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esto is one of the best condiments to have around the house. I love to toss it into something; scrambled eggs, pastas, salads, sandwiches, smeared onto toasted pita, etc. One of the better things I decided to do with this was add it into my favorite vegan lasagna recipe. This lasagna is so good, I honestly prefer it over regular lasagna. This pesto is definitely best used in recipes with pesto as the focus. It is such a special spring-time pesto that you don't want it to get over-looked. 

 

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 * Also! There is a give-a-way. I was fortunate enough to have been gifted the lovely and inspirational The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook from my sweet Aunt. She sent it to me thinking that I would enjoy it. Of course, she was right, I love the cook book but I had already purchased it for myself! I was swayed after seeing Heidi Swanson's post and was anticipating it's release. My favorite recipe in here is the edamame dumplings. Ridiculously good, they are steamed in a broth scented with lemongrass. I really like to curl up in bed with a good book... a number of those being cookbooks. Seriously, there are almost as many cookbook on my bed side table as in my kitchen. So now this beautiful book can be passed onto you dears. To enter just leave a comment about what your favorite pesto is or what your favorite way to eat pesto is. I'll pick the winner on Monday 5/6 and then ask you for your address so I can mail you this lovely book.

 

Pesto ( Makes about a scant 3 cups)

1 bunch sorrel - coarsely chopped

1 bunch dandelion - coarsely chopped

Red onion - 1/4 a red onion - chopped

emon - juice of 1 lemon

arlic - 4 cloves, chopped

Sunflower seeds - 1/4 cup

Salt/pepper- to taste

Heat up a medium pot of water to boiling. nce it is boiling toss in your dandelion greens and cook for about 2-3 minutes and then strain out. In a blender or food processor add all you ingredients, make sure the dandelion has drained well before adding it. Process until the pesto is smooth. Store in an airtight container the the refrigerator. Good for about 2 weeks.  I highly recommend that you make this vegan lasagna with it. 

Vegan, spring, pesto lasagna. Layers of creamy filling, tomato sauce, arugula, & noodles.

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I made this lasagna once, over a year ago, and haven't made a lasagna since. I like pasta dishes but I really don't make them often. Occasionally, I'll get the urge (if I have time) to make some homemade pasta dough but that is a once-a-year thing if at all. There was the time last year where I took home 90 free eggs from work. Ok... what do you do with 90 free eggs? After half a day of kitchen time I stocked our freezer with loads of homemade ravioli (3 kinds..mushroom, arugula ricotta, and butternut squash) and mini quiches. It was insane but I used up a lot of the eggs that way. Bad part was, we still had some mini quiches in the freezer when we lost power for 4 days in a snow storm. To try and save the quiches, I buried them outside into the snow where they were devoured by wild animals. At least somebody enjoyed them, right?

Anyways, lasagna. I really like this lasagna from a recipe in a cookbook called The Big Vegan. It's funny, this cookbook really isn't my typical style but there are some really great ideas and recipes in here. The following recipe is an adaptation of the recipe in the book. I felt like making lasagna because I had about 3 cups of this homemade dandelion & sorrel pesto to play around with. I didn't want to overwhelm this yummy pesto with a bunch of dairy, so I turned to this tried and true vegan lasagna. This lasagna is so good, really. I'd bet that you could fool people. Give them a piece of this lasagna and they will have no idea that it is vegan unless you tell them.

* Also! There is a give-a-way. I'm not really use to how give-a-ways work, honestly, I'm not up on my blog etiquette. The reason I am doing it, other than I love you of course, is that by fate I have two of the same cookbook, The Sprouted Kitchen. The give-a-way is being held on the sister post to this one, the pesto post, which can be found here

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Recipe (I made it in a oval, 9" casserole dish and it was filled to the brim)

Filling recipe 

Vegan pesto of your choice - 16oz (here is the dandelion/sorrel pesto recipe)

Tofu - 1 packet of soft tofu (14oz) 

Artichoke hearts - 1 can, drained

Nutritional yeast - 2TB

Miso - 2TB

Olive oil - 1Tb

Salt- a pinch

 Tomato sauce recipe

Can of tomatoes (I used whole, peeled) - 14oz, drained half-way

Onion - 1.5 cups, chopped

Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped

Basil - 3Tb, fresh, slivered

Fennel seeds - 1tsp

Oregano - 1.5tsp dried, or 1tsp, fresh

Salt/pepper - to taste

Other layers

Packet of vegan whole wheat lasagna noodles (or spinach) 

Arugula - a few handfuls

(optional) Almond meal or pine nuts - to top

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Preheat you oven to 400 degrees about 15 minutes before you are ready to bake. Place all your filling ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Dump out filling into a bowl and clean the blender, you will need it again. Put a medium pot of water with a pinch of salt over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling you will add you lasagna noodles and simmer for about 7 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water. Meanwhile, chop up your onion and garlic. Heat up a deep skillet with 1Tb olive oil and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute and then add in the onions. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Add in the can of tomatoes and all your spices. Cook for a few minutes until bubbling and soft. Taste and adjust salt/pepper. Transfer into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. 

Get out your casserole dish. Layer about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Then lay down a layer of noodles, top with about 1.5 cups of filling, and then a handful of arugula. Then noodles, tomato sauce, filling, arugula. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, adjusting as needed, ending with the last of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with almond meal or pine nuts if desired. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes, if you can wait, because the filling will be very hot. 

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Spring fava bean, quinoa, radish, avocado, & mint salad.

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I am so excited. I'm going to visit my Athens tribe. We are approaching our Denver move date fast! We leave in about 2 weeks. Sure there is a ton to do... packing things up, cleaning, finishing projects, getting things ready for the sublease... but I'd rather go see my dear friends and family who, right now, are about 9 hours away. Come Denver we'll be 22 hours away. I feel this is an adequate reason to forsake responsibility. I'm getting some time with my family too before dipping out to the Rockies but I'm assuming my Dad will use my Denver location as a great excuse to finally come out and have some river time. 

I have lots of things waiting for me in Athens this weekend. Lets see, it is twilight weekend (an international bike race that has athens busting at the seam), there are drinks in the Georgia warmth awaiting, a dear friend who is just back in from teaching in South Korea, brunch with the best, oodles of dogs at dog park time, art school exit show (featuring one of my favorites), desserts (last time we racked up a bill of somewhere around 50 bucks on dessert between 5 of us... uhh what?), a farmers market that I have missed, my best friends and all those lovely faces that I have so dearly longed for being tucked away up here in the mountains and of course no trip to athens is complete without music.

So this week I've been being extra good. Drinking smoothes, eating raw salads, and taking my herbs. This quinoa, fava bean salad is ridiculously good. It is one of those meals that you think while eating it, "I could have this every-single-day of my life and be happy." It really is one of those meals that I think I could have every single day if I actually thought I could eat the same thing every single day. 

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Recipe (serves 4 but makes great leftovers)

Quinoa - 1 cup dried

Fava beans - fresh pods, several big handfuls. (once shelled I had a scant 2 cups)

Radish - 1 bunch

Avocado - 1, sliced into small chunks

Apple - 1/2 and apple, cut into small chunks

Red onion - 1/2 an onion, finely chopped

Olives - I had 6 kalamata olives left in my fridge, I sliced the meat off the pit into slivers.

Feta - about 1/3 cup

Mint - fresh, 3-4Tb finely chopped

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Butter - 1TB

Olive oil - a drizzle

Salt/pepper - to taste

Chop everything up so it is ready to use, except your avocado, save that until the end. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under water while shaking for a minute. Then add the quinoa into a medium pot and cover by a few inches of water. Bring the quinoa up to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Get another small or medium pot out and fill it up half-way with water, this will be to blanch your fava beans. Shell the fava beans and place the beans into a bowl, discard the pods. Once the water is boiling, add in your fava beans and let it get back up to a simmer. Once it gets back up to boiling, don't let it cook longer than 1 minute. Drain the fava beans and rinse with cold water.  Here comes the tedious part. Shell the fava beans and discard the shell, underneath will be this bright, green bean. Once you are done with the quinoa and fava beans, you can put them into a large bowl together.

Heat the oven up to 350 degrees. Chop up the radishes into thin slices. Add 1/2 the radishes into the bowl with the quinoa & favas. Add the other 1/2 the radishes into a small saucepan on the stove with the 1TB butter. Heat over medium heat and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the radishes to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the apples, mint, feta, olives, onion, lemon juice, and drizzle of olive oil to the bowl of quinoa. Stir until well combined. Slice up your avocado and set it aside. Add in your roasted radishes and season with whole thing with salt and pepper, you should not need much salt. Add in your avocado last and stir, gently, until well combined. Enjoy it, I know you will. Why? Because it is just that good.

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Asparagus fritters + a chive sauce

Fritters.

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Fritters have kind of reached that "cult favorite" status in the foodie world, along with things like hand pies. There seems to be at least one fritter recipe in new cook books and a constant stream of new fritter recipes online. And, why not? They are delicious and adaptable, you can pretty much make any vegetables into fritters. What is not to love? But really, I think we just have an obsession with things that are bite sized, it makes it all the more fun. Fritters are not something I frequently make. I really like fritters but they have never been a meal sort of thing for me. They are more finger foods in my mind, really good for bringing to potlucks. So it really surprised me when I found myself making these. These fritters, served on a bed of spring greens and drizzled with a yogurt, chive sauce makes a really delicious fritter meal. Fritter, happier. 

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Recipe (makes about 10 fritters)

Asparagus - 1 bunch, sliced into thin rounds

Young vidalia onions - 3 (replace with shallots or a sweet yellow onion instead), sliced

Lemon zest - from 1/2 a lemon

Lemon juice - 1 lemon

Whole wheat flour - 1 cup, generously heaped

Eggs - 3

Milk - about 2/3 cup depending on the amount of your onions

Chives - 1/2 a bunch, finely chopped

Yogurt - 2/3 cup plain whole milk or greek yogurt

Chervil - heaping 1/2tsp (dried)

Salt/pepper- to taste

Coconut oil - 2TB (ok to use olive oil but I prefer coconut oil at higher temperatures)

Spring greens - a few small handfuls

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Slice and chop up all your vegetables. In a large bowl beat together the milk and eggs. Then beat in the flour. The mixture should be a thin cake batter at this point. Stir in all your chopped up veggies (except the chives) until combined. Then add in the lemon zest and juice of 1/2 the lemon, stir until combine. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. 

Heat up a large skillet on high heat with 1Tb of the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, scoop in desired amounts of the batter onto the skillet and let cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes. As needed, add more coconut oil to the pan. I could fit about 4 fritters in the skillet at once. While the fritters are cooking in a bowl stir together the yogurt, chives, remaining lemon juice, chervil, and salt/pepper. 

Once the fritters are cooked, serve them on a bed of spring greens drizzled with a generous amount of the chive sauce. Enjoy! Fritter, happier.

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Carrot, mango smoothie

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I am so happy that it is warm. I'ma celebrate with a smoothie.

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Recipe (Makes one finnnnne smoothie)

arrots - 3 big, whole, chunky ones. 

Mango - 1, peeled and then sliced off the pit

Yogurt - 1/4 cup, Greek or whole milke

Honey - 1tsp, generous

Almond milk (or other) - about 2/3 cups

Ice cubes - a few or a small handfull

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un the carrots through a juicer. Add the carrot juice, mango, yogurt, honey, almond milk, and ice cubes to a blender. Blend until smooth. Admire that beautiful color. Drink. Mmm so smooth, so good. 

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A dinner of turnips + french beans in butter + Prosecco.

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Sometimes it is fun to make a small array of side items from produce lingering around in your refrigerator. Pair it with one fancy item, in this case prosecco, and you have got a special meal. Prosecco goes surprisingly really well with this vegetable meal. It's light, dry, sweetness complimented the butter, warm turnips, and french beans.

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Turnips roasted in butter & paprika. 

Turnips - 3 medium/large turnips.

Butter - 2TB

Paprika - 1-2tsp

Salt/pepper - A few good pinches

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Cut up the turnips into wedges. In an oven-proof deep skillet melt the butter on medium heat. Add in the turnips and toss to coat. Add in the paprika, I used about 2tsp, and the salt/pepper to taste and toss to coat. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring once half way through.

Haricot verts in butter, garlic & lemon.

Haricot verts - 1/2lb

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Butter - 1.5TB

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

White wine vinegar - a splash

Salt/pepper - to taste

Heat up a large skillet on medium heat with the butter, once melted add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute. Add in the french beans and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add in the lemon juice and the splash of white wine vinegar. Cook for about 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

Place everything into bowls and serve with crusty pieces of bread & something fancy, like prosecco. 

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Chickweed goddess dressing over a spring salad + violets. How to forage for chickweed & violet

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Last night I came back from a nice, warm, summer night out that started with listening to Brazilian drumming with drinks and ended with Thai curry. We arrived back home, parked the car in our semi-gravel/semi-grass driveway, I stepped out with my shoes in hand, feet on the earth, and just dead stopped; I was transfixed by the sky. The deep, midnight, blue sky was flecked so brightly with stars twinkling around the silhouettes of budding tulip poplar branches that seemed to arc over me. It was one of those instances where your whole body feels sucked in and swallowed by what you are paying attention to. Like the sky was a giant magnet pulling the top half of your body up many miles to meet with it. I would have given anything in that moment to reach up and cup my hands around each and every star and plant a big kiss on those bright star cheeks. I wanted to say thank you to the earth.

Once spring finally hit us it stuck for one day and then immediately leaped to summer. When I moved a bit further north I thought I would be relieved to take a break from the suffocating heat of summer but now I realize how much I drink that warmth in. How replenishing it is. I wiped the literal sweat off my brow in relief at the return of heat. On an early April day of 90 degree heat I spent most of my day licking up the sun in my cutoffs and tank top while wandering around the woods in search of wild edibles. Successful in my venture, I made this salad and it never felt more nourishing than after a day in the sun. I realize now that as far as I move, as little or as frequently as I travel, I am some weird breed of southern girl. It's landscape, its sweltering humid heat, cicadas, common phenomenon of waving to strangers, fireflies, and biscuits are in my blood. Just as I adore and prefer to be in the woods and mountains, I have the salt and heavy air of the coast flowing through my veins since my birth. As much of a vegetarian as I am I have appreciation for a good seafood recipe and envy that I can't partake in a good shrimp n' grits or étouffée, it is the cajun in me. Some things you can't fight, its the soul speaking. I can't deny that even though I find some southern traditions and politics a little suffocating, I have love for the southern wild. I'm part of it and I will always find comfort in the return of the heat. So thank you chickweed, thank you violet, thank you stars.

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hickweed goddess dressing

vocado - 1, sliced

Garlic - 3/4 cloves, coarsely chopped

emon - juice of one lemon

Chickweed - 1-2 cups fresh, chopped into chunks

live oil - 2TB

Salt/pepper- to taste

Water

Put everything in a blender or food processor (except the water) and blend. Then add water a few TB at a time to thin the dressing out to your desired consistency.

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pring violet salad

Spring mix/violet leaves - Several big handfuls

iolet flowers or other edible spring flowers - 1 Cup

Red onion - 1/4 slivered

unflower seeds - 1/4 a cup

Pumpkin seeds - a handful

Chickweed goddess dressing.

oss the spring mix, onions, and violet flowers together. Then add in the dressing and toss to coat. Then add in the seeds and toss until combined! Adding the dressing before the seeds helps the seeds to stick and distribute more evenly rather than dropping to the bottom of the bowl. 

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Foraging for Chickweed

hickweed is one of those great common garden weeds that has so much overlooked potential. Chickweed is around you, I promise, and once you learn to identify it there is no reason not to thank it, pluck it up, and add it to your diet every spring. In short, chickweed is incredibly nutritious, I will elaborate on chickweed as an herbal superstar and healer in a later posting. Chickweed is a great source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-complex, beta-carotenes, and bio-flavonoids. I have heard the flavor being compared to corn silk. That is not my first thought when eating it but it tastes similar to most of the "moderate" flavors of light, cooling, spring greens to me. You'll find it in open (untreated) lawn areas but also in and around the edges to younger woodlands typically growing in the mottled shaded patches. It is really quite easy to spot once it is pointed out to you once or twice. There really aren't many overly close poisonous look a-likes but of course never eat anything if you aren't sure and always triple check your plants, but chickweed is a great starter wild edible. 

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Chickweed is a low-growing, spreading radially along the ground about 3" tall typically, but it can get up to about 8" tall. It grows in mats up to a foot and a half in size with the leaves ranging from tiny to thumb sized. The leaves are oval, pointed, and opposite (meaning the leaves grow opposite each other on the stem). here are fine hairs on the stem of the plant and delicate white flowers at the end. The first time I looked at the flower I thought it had 10 petals but it turns out the flower only has 5 petals but each petal is so deeply cleft it looks like 10! Usually there are about 2-3 hairy flower buds drooping from the flower end as well. In addition, look up pictures online and familiarize yourself. Plus, if you are interested wildman steve brill has excellent books. Be sure to gather in areas that are not sprayed, are not exposed to a lot of road run-off, and are not a popular pet bathroom spot. 

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oraging for violet

iolet is another one of those lawn "weeds" that you probably already recognize. You know that tiny, delicate purple to white flower you have been admiring while walking along the sidewalk? Yeah that one, you can eat it. You probably have some in your very own yard as long as your lawn is untreated. Violet flowers and leaves are edible, not the roots or rhizomes, just stick to what is above ground. Also don't confuse native wild violet with the African violet house plants... you really don't want to eat those, they are poisonous. The leaves and flowers are great in salads but the leaves are very demulcent so a bit more slimy than your typical green. It is a fabulous cooling herb and rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotenes. It is another wonderfully healing herb which I will expand upon in a later posting. Violent is a low growing, dense, clumping plant. Its flower is five petaled with deep purple, blue, to white nodding flower heads. The flowers grow on a single stem with no leaves on the flower stem. The leaves grown on separate stems and are rather glossy, heart shaped with the "tops" of the hearts typically cupping inward towards the leaf stalk. Sometimes the leaves are cupped so far inwards that they create a funnel of sorts. Violet will grow in open lawn areas in sun to shade. Be sure to gather in areas that are not sprayed, are not exposed to a lot of road run-off, and are not a popular pet bathroom spot. 

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t the end of the day I had happy bellies and happy dogs.

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Shaved asparagus, tarragon pizza & spinach, basil, goat cheese pizza

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It's spring and pizza is in the air. We got into making homemade pizzas a long time ago when Laurie, a best friend and past roommate, use to work at a stone-fired pizza place during college. She could take this little baby-bottom soft piece of dough and toss it out into a disc, top it, and have it slipped into the oven in no time. One early summer's afternoon we decided to have a pizza-luck. Laurie got a bunch of dough ball "butts" from work and everybody pitched in and brought toppings. Doing this at the house was extremely fun but not without difficulties. We had pizzas popping out of all different shapes, sizes, deformities, colors, flavors, until the power all over the block mysteriously gave out. So we were oven-less, secretly I was thankful for this, our tiny house felt like a sweat lodge after running the oven for hours and our AC didn't work so well. So we gave the pizza stones a rest and all retreated outside, sat around in our big yard with good friends, drinks, and plenty of pizza to share. 

I made these pizzas when we had two friends from Athens, who now live in Charlotte, visit us in Virginia. It was the first asparagus of the season for me and I wanted to do something special with it. Clearly, pizza is special and it is worth the grace of the seasons first asparagus. Make your own dough at home with the recipe below, buy your own pre made dough (usually found at Earthfare or Whole Foods), or use a pre-cooked crust. 

A word about making your own crust. I've tried so many different pizza crust methods/recipes and none compare to Peter Reinhart's overnight fermentation method. The problem is that I rarely make this recipe because I am usually not planning on making pizza the day before. You have to start his recipe the day before, it is essential. But if you do plan ahead, seriously, locate his recipe and make it; it is a gem.

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Dough, the short version ( makes two pizzas )

Flour (I used bread flour) - 1 1/2 Cups

Olive oil - 1/3 cup

Warm water (110-115 degrees)

Active dry yeast - scant 1Tb (or one packet)

Sugar - A big pinch

Salt - 1.5tsp

Place your warm water into a 2 cup pyrex, make sure it is between no warmer that 115degrees and no less than 105degrees. You need it to be warm enough for the yeast but not too hot or else it will kill your yeast. Add in your good pinch of sugar and whisk to somewhat dissolve. Add in your yeast and whisk until it is dissolved. Let this mixture sit in a warm place for 10 minutes until it starts to get foamy and fluff up.

Meanwhile mix your flour and salt in a mixer with the dough hook attached. You can do this by hand, just need a big bowl and a wooden spoon. Once the yeast mixture is ready add it into the mixture while it is going and then add 1/2 the oil. Let the dough start to come together and finish adding the oil when it looks like it needs it. You want the dough to be soft but not tacky. I left a little oil out of the dough mixture so I could later grease the bowl with it. Let it mix in the mixer for a few minutes.

Lightly flour a clean surface and take out your dough and knead it with you hands for several minutes and form it into a round. Grease a large bowl with your extra oil, roll the dough round to coat the top with oil. Let it covered with a cloth in a warm place to double in size, at least an hour. Once it is doubled in size, turn the dough out and divide in in half, forming each half into a round.

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Asparagus pizza

Asparagus - 1 bunch

Yellow onion - 1/2 slivered

Garlic - 3 cloves minced

A good parmesan - 1 cup grated

Tarragon - scant 2Tb chopped fine, fresh

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Egg - 1

Olive oil - 2Tb + some for brushing

Salt/pepper - to taste, I used generous pepper

Preheat your oven on 500degrees. Take a mandoline or a vegetable peeler and peel your asparagus into long ribbons. This may take awhile but it is worth it. It is ok if they are uneven or different sizes/thicknesses. I used a vegetable peeler and held the end of the asparagus (the part you usually cut off) as a handle. Place all your asparagus ribbons in a bowl. Heat up a deep skillet on medium heat with 2Tb olive oil. Add in the minced garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add in the onions and cook for several minuets until softened. Add in the asparagus ribbons. Cook for several minutes until just starting to soften. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt/pepper. Turn off the heat and stir in the tarragon. 

Take one of the dough rounds and place it on a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a circle about 9" in diameter. Transfer the pizza onto your pizza stone or baking sheet now, before you top it. I then brushed the outer few inches of dough with olive oil and rolled the edge in about 1" to make a crust. Scatter 1/2 cup of parmesan over the pizza. Top with the asparagus mixture, spreading evenly. Scatter the other 1/2 parmesan over the top. Part some of the asparagus in the center to make a slight well and crack your egg in it. Finish by brushing the edges with olive oil. Place your pizza in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes (maybe a little longer or a little less) Keep an eye on cooking your egg. It is tricky to get it out when the whites are set but the yolk is still runny. I took mine out a little too early then put it back in but when I went back for it, it was too late and my yolk was cooked. You could try cooking your pizza without the egg for 1/2 the time and then pull out the shelf, crack in the egg onto the already hot pizza, then finish cooking. Experiment.

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Spinach, basil, goat cheese

Spinach - Several handfuls of fresh spinach

Goat cheese - 4Tb about

Parmesan -1/2 cup grated

Basil - 2Tb slivered, fresh

Pepper - generous amounts.

With the oven still at 500 degrees. Roll out your second round like you did with the asparagus pizza. Transfer the pizza dough onto your pizza stone or baking sheet at this point. Crumble the goat cheese around the disc and the smear the goat cheese with a knife, gently, into a thin layer covering the crust. Scatter over the fresh basil. Top with the handfuls of fresh spinach and then the parmesan. Brush the crust edges with olive oil. Finish with a generous sprinkling of black pepper over the pizza. Place in the oven and cook about 10-15 minutes.

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Lemon-butter haricot verts over hominy with a poached egg.

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This dish comes together so beautifully that it looks like a dish that would be served at a cozy, upscale cafe. You know the ones you pass by while walking on the sidewalk of a popular city street. You peer through the big, open windows at the beautifully arranged tables and see plates of delicate meals being served to wide-eyed faces thinking you wouldn't ever be able to make that at home. Little surprise is that you can. It is lovely to go out and be served with inspiring creations and share laughs with friends but sometimes its just as sweet to surprise yourself at home. 

I love those delicate little french beans known as haricot verts. They have a sweeter flavor for green beans and seem less "stringy" to me. Usually they are cooked and served as a nice side to a meal but in this recipe they shine as the star. The "meat" of the dish, if you will. Hominy is corn grits, you can certainly use other types of grits or polenta but hominy, if you can find it, does great here. Hominy cooks up much creamier and smoother, without adding anything else to it. This is because the hominy (type of corn kernel) is soaked to remove the hard casting (that thing that gets stuck in your teeth while eating popcorn), it is then dried and ground. Its a nice contrast to the lemon juice and white wine vinegar flavors in the haricot verts. Then, of course, butter. Well I'm sure I don't have to convince you of how tasty butter makes this. 

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Recipe (Serves two brunch portions)

Eggs - 2

Haricot verts - About 1/2lb fresh, rinsed (you can either snap then ends or not - I don't)

Ground hominy - 1/4 cup

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Butter - 3.5Tb

White wine vinegar - 2tsp about

Apple cider vinegar - a splash or a generous capful

Salt/pepper - to taste, I used a generous amount of fresh black pepper

Heat a medium pot of water 2/3 full up to boil. Get a large bowl ready filled half way with cold water/ice and then place a colander in your sink. Add 1 cup of water with a pinch of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Once the water in the small saucepan is simmering add in your hominy and turn on low, stirring occasionally until cooked (about 15 minutes). Once the hominy is cooked add in about 1.5TB of butter and season with salt/pepper to taste. While things are heating mince up your garlic. Once the medium pot of water is boiling add in your haricot verts. Let them low boil for 3 minutes. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and place in your bowl of ice water (keep the pot of water from your beans for your poached eggs).  Let the beans sit in the ice water for a minute until cool and then drain in the colander. Keep the water at a low boil and add in a splash of apple cider vinegar.

Melt the remaining 2TB of butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add in the white wine vinegar and lemon juice, stir. Then add in the beans and sauté for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat. Get out two plates and divide the hominy between the two and then the beans, pressing the beans into the hominy slightly.

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Get out a wooden spoon and have it ready, its time to poach your eggs. Crack an egg into a little ramekin or small bowl and slightly tilt it into the gently boiling water. Take the spoon and gently move the water around the egg towards the center of the egg with little "paddling" motions to keep the egg together. Let the water get back up to a low boil, not any hotter. Keep and eye on the time and remove the egg with a slotted spoon after about 3-4 minutes if you want mostly runny yolk. Keep the egg in longer if not. Place the egg on top of hominy/beans and drizzle with any sauce leftover from the bean skillet and sprinkle with more pepper. Repeat with the second egg and enjoy! 

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Potato salad with snap peas, yogurt, and dill

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Potato salad is another one of those classic dishes that gets ignored. Or else we tend to think its only place is at bbq's and picnics mounded onto a plastic plate with equal parts mayonnaise and mustard. This is a fresh take on potato salad that gives you all the satisfaction of picnic fare, but with a better ingredient list.

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Recipe (Serves 4 as a side)

Potatoes - 1lb (I used very small potatoes so I didn't have to cut them)

Snap peas - 1 cup with the ends trimmed off and sliced into 1/4" slivers

Red onion - 1/4 of a red onion, chopped finely.

Yogurt - 1 cup (Plain, whole, yogurt)

Dill - 1tsp (dried)

Salt/pepper - to taste

Fill a medium pot up with water to boil. Add in the potatoes and let them boil until cooked and are easily pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and rinse under cold water. You don't want the potatoes hot to the touch, you want them slightly cooled. Mix together the sliced snap peas, red onion, dill, and salt/pepper. Stir until combined and then add in potatoes. Mash/chop with a fork very slightly and stir until everything is coated. Eat alone or served on a bed of greens.

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Watercress, fennel, & potato soup

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This soup will make such a lovely shade of green if you have a good blender or immersion blender. My soup was printed with flecks of watercress green, but it was just as tasty. Originally, I had not planned on making this a creamy soup but the process just took me there and I am glad it did. Although, if you want to cut back on the dairy, this soup will still be just as good. You could double the bunch of watercress and it would be better yet.

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Recipe (Serves 4)

Watercress - 1 Bunch

Potatoes - 1LB Chopped into equal size for boiling

Yellow onion - 3/4 of a large yellow onion, slivered

Fennel - 3/4 of a fennel bulb, slivered

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced

Butter - 3TB

Vegetable broth - 4 cups

White wine - 1/2 cup

Cream - 1/2cup

Parmesan - 1/4 cup finely grated

In a medium pot melt 3TB of butter on medium heat. Add your garlic, onions, and fennel. Cook no more than 5 minutes and let them soften. Add the vegetable broth and potatoes and heat up the broth to a low boil until the potatoes are cooked. Add in the watercress and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and put all the soup into a blender, blend until smooth. Add the soup ingredients into a pot, stir in the wine and parmesan and cook for just a few minutes on low heat. Run the soup through the blender again if need be. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and slowly stir in the heavy cream. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Pour into bowls and slowly stir in a little extra cream on the top of each one and sprinkle with fresh black pepper.

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