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August 16, 2010

Drowning in Zucchini? Try This Simple Sauté

Every week I head into town to pick up my CSA share, and every week I’m shocked to find an even bigger bag of zucchini than I found the week before. Will this bonanza ever taper off? How will I eat, freeze, and dry it all before it spoils?

I’ve been looking for new and interesting ways to prepare zucchini. Recently I threw together this simple Italian-inspired meal. It’s simple and easy, like summer cooking should be, but using freshly-picked, perfectly-ripe produce provides a burst of flavor and color.

summer vegetable saute

Continue reading “Drowning in Zucchini? Try This Simple Sauté” »

June 28, 2010

Summer Peach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

Thanks to a warm, wet June, farm stands are overflowing with strawberries and early summer vegetables. It’s all I can do to keep up with the lettuce in my weekly CSA bag. This light, colorful salad couldn’t be easier to throw together, and it’s bursting with summer flavor. It makes a perfect picnic side dish, but it’s also hearty enough for a meal–nuts and seeds are dense sources of protein and healthy fats.

You’ll have to wait a month to find Maine-grown peaches, but you can purée and freeze local strawberries now. You’ll need ¼ cup of puréed strawberries for 3-4 servings of vinaigrette.

Summer Peach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

Delicate salad greens (try Boston, Bibb, or red leaf lettuce)
Peaches (1 for every two servings), thinly sliced
Walnut or pecan halves
Unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
¼ cup walnut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons agave nectar (or granulated sugar)

Place lettuce in serving bowls and top with peaches, nuts, and sunflower seeds. Prepare the strawberry vinaigrette: place strawberries, oil, vinegar, and agave (or sugar) in blender and purée. Drizzle over salad.

Yield: ½ cup dressing, enough for 3-4 servings.

April 27, 2010

Healthy Spring Lunch: Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

It’s that time of year when we pack away our winter coats, turn off our wood stoves, and begin to daydream about the season of fresh fruit and salad that seems almost within reach. Perhaps your friends down south are already enjoying food from their backyard gardens, but Maine’s growing season has yet to kick into gear. While the rest of the country’s got mesclun greens and asparagus, we’re living on carrots, potatoes, and anticipation.

Fortunately, recent warm weather has allowed farmers with greenhouses to get a jump on the season; for the past month, I’ve been able to find local spinach at my natural foods store. I’m craving raw, crunchy meals with bright flavors, so to this spinach I add fruit, nuts, seeds, and a sweet and sour maple mustard dressing.

This salad bursts with nutrition. Spinach is rich in iron, and the vitamin C in pears and cranberries make it easier to absorb. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Pumpkin seeds and almonds are rich in protein, heart-healthy oils, and minerals like calcium, copper, and magnesium. When I eat this salad I can almost feel my body waking up from its winter malaise and saying, “Thank you!”

Continue reading “Healthy Spring Lunch: Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette” »

March 15, 2010

Tempeh Stuffed Cabbage

If you’re not familiar with tempeh, this dish offers a tasty introduction. Made of whole, fermented soybeans, tempeh is higher in protein and  fiber than tofu, with a dense, chewy texture. Tempeh is versatile: marinate and grill it, cube and  fry it, or crumble it and use in place of ground beef. Its earthy flavor pairs well with mushrooms and winter vegetables.

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February 8, 2010

Millet: a Nutritious, Versatile Gluten-Free Grain

Millet doesn’t get a lot of attention in this country, where it’s used primarily as birdseed. If I hadn’t been forced to look for gluten-free alternatives to couscous, I might never have discovered this wholesome grain. Rich in B-vitamins, with a nutty, whole-wheat flavor, millet has been a staple grain in Asia for millennia. It pairs well with sweet winter squash and yams, and with Earthy flavors like onion and mushroom.

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January 10, 2010

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Life without gluten shouldn’t mean life without warm, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately, many gluten-free baked goods are hard, dry, and flavorless. On their own, none of the many bean, nut, and gluten-free grain flours provide the cohesion and structure of all-purpose flour, but by combining flours and special binding agents, you can create satisfying, decadent desserts.

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December 13, 2009

Easy Pumpkin-Citrus Soup

This simple soup is one of my favorite no-recipe meals; I make it so often I know it by heart. Pumpkin and citrus provide some color, liveliness, and vitamin C as we enter this gray time of year.

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November 30, 2009

Curried Carrot Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

This time of year, incorporating crisp, fresh vegetables into your diet can be a challenge. Local winter squash and root vegetables are plentiful, but the greens of summer are dormant, and the produce at the grocery store is usually dull and limp after its cross-country voyage. Continue reading “Curried Carrot Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette” »

November 10, 2009

Chickpea Pot Pie

My taste runs toward hot peppers and sour pickles, so mild beige Thanksgiving foods have never held much excitement. As a vegetarian, I’ve always made a meal of sides—rolls, stuffing, mashed potatoes. This year, I set out to create a gluten-free vegan main dish I can share with everyone at the table: a savory pie stuffed with root vegetables, gravy, and chickpeas. Continue reading “Chickpea Pot Pie” »

November 3, 2009

Gluten-Free Wild Rice Stuffing

Dietary restrictions can be a source of stress during the holiday season, but they can also spur creativity. When I was a new vegetarian, I tried the cutely-named soy and wheat-based imitation turkey products, but ultimately decided it was healthier and tastier to celebrate the harvest by eating whole foods, prepared with care and creativity. Roasted root vegetables are a must, along with cranberry sauce, rolls, and some sort of rich bean and vegetable casserole.

This year presents more of a challenge, as it will be my first gluten-free Thanksgiving. As a vegan, I’ve never felt deprived during the holidays, but this new constraint gives me pause. I return again to vegetables and whole grains, most of them gluten-free to begin with. My experiments with biscuits and pie crust have been disappointing, but I refuse to be the hungry, sad-eyed, food-allergic vegan with nothing but boiled carrots and a scoop of cranberry sauce on her plate.

Continue reading “Gluten-Free Wild Rice Stuffing” »

October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

The usual suspects–cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger–accompany pumpkin in these seasonal vegan cupcakes, while bittersweet chocolate ganache gives them a bit of grown-up elegance. Try them for Halloween; orange and black, they look the part. Continue reading “Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache” »

September 27, 2009

Husk Cherry Waldorf Salad

After a recent lunch at Chase’s Daily, I wandered back to browse the selection of fruit, vegetables, and flowers delivered fresh from the Chase family farm. The restaurant receives well-deserved praise in the new issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle; not only are their vegetarian meals delicious, but thanks to the light streaming in the tall windows, the hand-lettered signs, and the rustic bins, more photogenic produce cannot be found.

Among the sunflowers and herbs, I discovered husk cherries. I couldn’t resist this adorable, unfamiliar fruit so I brought home a pint, though I had no idea what lay inside their papery skins. Also called ground cherries or cape gooseberries, husk cherries are closely related to tomatillos. Tender and full of small seeds, they resemble cherry tomatoes in texture. Husk cherries possess a unique flavor with elements of vanilla, pineapple, citrus, and yellow cake. They’re sweet as candy inside their delicate wrappers.

If you stumble across husk cherries, pick up a pint or two. They would be lovely in a fruit crisp or clafoutis. In this simple variation on the Waldorf salad, they’re sweet enough to stand in for apples and raisins. If you can’t find husk cherries, grapes or chopped sweet apple would be the next best thing.

Husk Cherry Waldorf Salad

1 cup walnuts
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced (1 cup)
1 pint husk cherries, husks removed and halved (a generous cup)
2 Tablespoons sliced shallot
½ cup vanilla soy yogurt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Green or red leaf lettuce, chopped (optional)

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast walnuts for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until they become lightly browned and fragrant. Allow walnuts to cool, then combine with celery, husk cherries, and shallot in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt and lemon juice. Pour dressing over salad and stir gently to combine. Serve over lettuce if desired.

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side.

September 13, 2009

Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Welcome, autumn. September brings my favorite weather, and my favorite season of cooking and eating. Summer’s herbs and leafy greens are still hanging on alongside hearty squash and root vegetables. Lately, my CSA farmer has bombarded me with carrots. The gnarly, irregular roots are sweet and taste of local soil. As the evenings turn cold, my mind shifts from salad to soup as I consider how to use up this bounty of carrots. Continue reading “Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup” »

August 20, 2009

Cooling Lemonade with a Secret Ingredient

It’s time for another exciting round of Guess That Food. I picked up these lightweight, baseball-sized beauties at Tuesday’s farmers’ market. Their fragile yellow skin is covered in prickly knobs.

Need another hint?

Continue reading “Cooling Lemonade with a Secret Ingredient” »

August 12, 2009

Three Bean and Potato Salad

Here’s a twist on classic picnic fare. With a tangy mustard vinaigrette, this side dish makes the most of August produce. Snappy green and wax beans are overflowing farm stands, and the season’s first small young potatoes are just showing up. Simple, fresh, and colorful, this is summer eating at its best.

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July 28, 2009

A Downeast Southwest Salad

It’s late July, and we’re just getting our first taste of heat and humidity. When the weather’s like this, all I can muster for dinner are simple, fresh, cooling salads.

A few years ago, the New York Times featured a list of 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. I highlighted the twenty or so that struck my fancy and played around with them all summer. This salad, a variation on #39, is the one meal on the list that’s stuck with me. I make it regularly this time of year, since it offers a refreshing balance of smokey, sweet, and citrus flavors. It also makes great use of late summer produce; you can probably find everything but the limes at your farmers’ market.

July 20, 2009

A Simple Summer Appetizer: Zucchini Bruschetta

Tiny baby zucchini have arrived at the farmers' market. Soon, they'll overwhelm backyard gardeners, who'll be unloading bags of summer squash and tomatoes to anyone within reach. 

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July 12, 2009

Pulao Rice with Fresh Green Peas

The first peas of summer have arrived, firm, sweet, and adorably plump. I couldn't resist popping a few pods open and snacking on raw peas all the way home from the farmers' market.

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June 22, 2009

When Life Gives You Mint, Make Ice Cream

When a large bunch of mint showed up in my CSA bag last week, I puzzled over how to use it. I've never liked mint in any context but toothpaste and dessert, so chutney, jelly, tea, and biryani were out. Ignoring the mint until it went bad was not an option, as I've vowed to eat everything that arrives from the farm this season (except beets: I make my husband eat those).

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June 17, 2009

Veggie Burgers Worth Showing Off

With barbecue season upon us, it's time to rethink the soggy gray veggie burger. As any vegetarian knows, those frozen patties' attempts to imitate meat elicit only mockery and scorn at neighborhood cookouts.

Instead of trying and failing to taste like beef, my favorite veggie burgers highlight the flavors and textures of chopped vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts. Creative seasoning can turn these simple ingredients into mouthwatering burgers that appeal even to skeptics.

Continue reading “Veggie Burgers Worth Showing Off” »