Category Archives: Flex-friendly


Garlic what?

It’s always fun to find something new and fleeting at the farm stand. So when I came across garlic scapes last week — I grabbed a bagful. A garlic scape is the flower stalk of the garlic bulb. They are harvested so that the garlic plant focuses on bulb growth, not reproduction :). They are tender and garlicky but the flavor is not as strong as the bulb. And here in the Mid-Atlantic, they are an early June treat (a little late this year I think) — so you gotta get ’em when you see ’em!

I’ve never used them before, but the nice lady at the farmstand suggested making pesto with them. So I googled around and found an approachable recipe over on Dorie Greenspan’s blog. But of COURSE I didn’t have the nuts she used, so I had to experiment a little. Oh my goodness — this stuff is GOOD. I ate it with a spoon. I smeared it on crackers. I smeared it on crackers with the olive cheese. I made a shrimp “scampi” with it. I made a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette with it.

SAMSUNGGarlic Scape and Pistachio Pesto
Adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan

10 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (I used the bagged stuff)
1/4 cup roasted, salted pistachios
About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Whir the scapes, Parmesan, pistachios, and half of the olive oil in the food processor until well blended and finely ground. Add a grind or two of black pepper. Slowly add the remainder of the oil — watching the texture closely — you might not need all of it. If it’s a little too thick — add a little more oil. I used my mini food-processor, so I ended up with a fairly “rustic” texture (pictured below, left). A couple of days later, I doubled the recipe in my full-size food processor and ended up with a much finer texture (pictured below, right). Both were scrumptious.


If you don’t eat it all immediately, store in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed on the surface. Should be fine for a couple of days, but any longer than that, you need to freeze it.


I should NOT be permitted to go shopping without a list

I confess — I’m not a natural blonde. More of a mousy brown with gray sneaking in. So every few months I head off to see Anu at Shear Shack to get my highlights and a cut. What does this have to do with the price of tea in China you might be asking. Well, next to Shear Shack is a small neighborhood Indian grocer!

SAMSUNG I start at the snack aisle, where I see these twirly, spiky crunchies called “muruku.” I work with several Indian immigrants, and a couple of them have brought in the home-made version of these. They have learned to bring a small ziploc bag for themselves and a LARGE ziploc bag for me. I call it Indian crack. These munchies are crunchy, well-seasoned (cumin, coriander, fennel, ?), and just a little spicy. You can’t eat just one handful, I swear. It starts with a rice and lentil flour batter that is extruded into hot oil. So not something I’m going to figure out at home. I grab a bag. I also grabbed another bag of fried snacks. Because I love Indian snacks.


I got lost in the frozen aisle next. All sorts of exotic vegetables I don’t recognize, but they do have naan. And kulcha. And paratha. And roti. And chapati. Oh my. I restrain myself to one naan and one onion kulcha. And some baby red onions. You know, just because they looked interesting.


So I get home and realize that I am STARVING. I briefly consider a muruku and naan lunch, but realize it’s probably a little heavy on the carbs. I have chickpeas and tomatoes in the pantry, an onion in the fridge, and some pepper strips in the freezer, so a vegan chickpea curry is just 30 minutes away. And I can stuff my face with muruku while it cooks :)

Chickpea Curry
Adapted from “Chole” in Padma Lakshmi’s Easy Exotic
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

SAMSUNG1 onion
A couple of generous handfuls of frozen tri-color pepper strips [*]
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained and liquid reserved
2 tablespoons neutral oil
2 teaspoons garam marsala [**]
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
1 – 2 tablespoons lime juice



Put the onion, pepper, and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and process until fairly smooth. I did this in batches in my mini-food-processor.


Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the puree and cook for 20 – 30 minutes over medium-low to medium until the onion is softened. You want a gentle simmer, not wild ploppy bubbles. If it starts to dry out, add some of the reserved tomato liquid or water, just a tablespoon at a time.

Add the garam marsala and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook about 10 more minutes, until heated through. Again, if it starts to dry out, add some of the reserved tomato liquid or water, just a tablespoon at a time. Serve over rice or with Indian bread, like the onion kulcha I just bought. Cilantro would make a nice garnish.


[*] The CGP doesn’t really care for green bell peppers. So I rarely have them on hand, fresh. What I do keep around are bags of frozen strips of bell peppers — most are a combination of yellow, green, and red. Far tastier than just the green and way better shelf-life.

[**] A mild spice blend typically with cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and black pepper, but does vary regionally. Can be bought at any Indian or Southeast Asian grocer. Penzey’s has a version as well. I sneak a little into my chili!


Continuing with the pumpkin obsession …

I’ve been hankering for a good pumpkin cookie. I’ve made some in the past, but they were cakey and a little wimpy in flavor. I wanted a cookie, not an unfinished whoopie pie. A crisp cookie. Something to give my classic Toll-House cookie a run for its money. So I wandered around the web and stumbled onto this chick Sally who had gone on a similar journey. Sally says “pumpkin can replace the eggs.” WHAAAA? This was crazy talk. I did a little more googling, and sure enough, a number of vegan sites suggest pumpkin as an egg replacement (1/3c pumpkin puree ~ 1 large egg).

SAMSUNGSo why reinvent the wheel? I took my classic Toll-House recipe and dropped the egg for some pumpkin. Because it’s pumpkin, I added a dash of classic fall spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and the like). I had bought some toffee bits on a whim, and they sounded like they might be good in there. But you know what, I tasted the batter after adding the toffee and thought it a tad too sweet, so I tossed in a just a handful of dark chocolate chips to cut the sweet. Genius, if I do say so myself!

These are honest-to-goodness COOKIES. Crisp on the edges, chewy in the center. The pumpkin is subtle, but there. The bitter of the dark chocolate not only tempers the sweetness of the toffee but enhances the earthiness of the pumpkin. The spices are subtle, and besides, cinnamon and chocolate are an ancient pairing. This cookie is worth adding to your fall repertoire.

Pumpkin-Toffee-Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

SAMSUNG1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons “baking” spice mix
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Gently melt the butter. I like to use a 2-cup Pyrex cup in the microwave: 30 seconds @ 50% power a couple of times with a swirl in between, 20 seconds @ 40% power, remove. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Pour the butter over the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low for about a minute. Scrape the paddle and sides, then let the butter and sugar hang out for about five minutes to better dissolve. Then, beat on medium-low for a couple of minutes until fully mixed. [NOTE: You could probably do this by hand with a wooden spoon and good arm muscles]

Add the pumpkin, mix until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, mix until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients slowly with mixer on low (I added in three increments), scraping frequently. Don’t overmix! Add the toffee and chocolate. Mix with the mixer about 3 rotations of the bowl — then stop and finish by hand.

Use a cookie scoop (mine is a generous tablespoon — probably about four teaspoons) to place eight scoops on a parchment-line cookie sheet. You need some room for spread. Put ONE cookie sheet in the oven, cook 6 minutes (set the timer!), rotate the pan, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Pull when the cookies look a bit underdone — there will be carryover cooking as you allow them to cool on the cookie sheet before moving to waxed paper on your countertop to fully cool.

Serve with ice cold milk, of course!




So one of our colleagues was getting married. Our office is ALWAYS up for a party, so we planned a pot-luck to wish her and her intended well in their new life together (I know it’s old-fashioned, but they weren’t cohabitating, so it really was a new life TOGETHER). We had main dishes and desserts covered, so I offered to bring an appetizer.

The bride-to-be is a flexitarian but mostly vegetarian, so I wanted to bring something that was meat-free. Also, we have a culturally diverse workforce with many dietary constraints, so going meat-free also allowed the widest possible sampling. I hoped to make two dips, one vegan and one with dairy. Not hummus.

The vegan was easy — a white bean dip. No need for dairy, no need for honey … consider it DONE. My little twist: using pan-charred garlic.

As for the dairy dip, I’ve been a little obsessed lately with pimento cheese. There are a couple of decent supermarket brands, but they are EXPENSIVE, so it feels like a splurge. But c’mon, isn’t it just cheese and mayonnaise and some red pepper? So when America’s Test Kitchen Feed posted a well-described amazingly-simple recipe for pimento cheese, well, I had to take it and improve upon it (of course).

Pan-charred Garlic

This is an alternative to the oh-so-time-consuming oven-roasted garlic. No added oil and takes as little as 10 minutes.

Throw some cloves of garlic, still in their skin, in a dry pan over medium heat. Shake and flip occasionally, until the skins are charred and starting to slip off. Allow to cool slightly, then slip the cloves out of the skins. Refrigerate any you don’t use immediately. Probably okay for 5 – 7 days (guess).



Garlicky White Bean Dip

SAMSUNG1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
3 cloves pan-charred garlic
Generous squirt of lime juice
Leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground chipolte (or cayenne)
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


This couldn’t be easier. Throw it all in the food processor. Process until smooth. Put it in a pretty bowl and garnish with some thyme twigs (see the image at the top). I’m embarrassed to call this a recipe.

Serve with sturdy dippers — like crackers or pita chips.



Spicy Pimento Cheese
Adapted from a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

SAMSUNG6 ounces block sharp cheddar cheese
3 – 4 ounces block pepper jack cheese (depends on your tolerance for spicy)
4 tablespoons chopped pimientos
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
Squirt or two of lime juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional) [*]

Shred your cheese by hand grater or in your food processor. Do NOT use pre-shredded cheese! The texture won’t come out right because that pre-shredded cheese is coated with stuff so it won’t stick together in the ziploc bag. I adore pre-shredded cheese for a bunch of other applications, just not THIS one.

Dump the now-shredded cheese into a medium-sized bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Start stirring with a fork. It will look awful at first. Keep stirring. Don’t add more mayo. Don’t add more pickle juice. Keep stirring. Suddenly — it will look perfect. STOP STIRRING. You don’t want to completely pulverize the cheese. Don’t panic if it looks a little loose … it improves after a few hours in the fridge and will firm up beautifully.


How to serve:

  • Put it in a pretty bowl and serve with saltine crackers
  • Spread on white bread and eat it as a sandwich
  • Spread it on buttered bread and make a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Smear it on a hot dog
  • Embed a gob within a raw hamburger patty and grill
  • Eat it straight from the fridge with a fork, at midnight


 [*] Worcestershire sauce is traditionally made with anchovies. There are vegan varieties available.