The Vegan Ploughman

IMG_2458There’s nothing I love more than a simple summer supper. My favorite is a vegan version of a Ploughman’s Lunch that I make from whatever I can find in the fridge. Sunday’s included heirloom tomatoes picked fresh from the vines on our deck sprinkled with the basil I dried last week, a bit of sea salt, ground black pepper and drizzled with balsamic reduction. I added the last few yellow cherry tomatoes we’ll have this year, sliced raw pepperoncini and the refrigerator pickles I made with pepperoncini from the same plant a few weeks ago. But it wouldn’t be a Ploughman’s Lunch without cheese. If I don’t have the time to make my own cheesy vegan spread with cashews, nutritional yeast and garlic I’ll settle for Chao Pepper Jack. Instead of crusty bread I topped off the plate with a baby garnet yam (a baked a half dozen of them yesterday morning to have them on hand) and a spoonful of sauerkraut. This supper is, of course, served best with a frothy IPA poured into a chilled mug. Perfect.

The Little Gardener Who Could…or…How I Don’t Follow Recipes

I wasnt born with a silver set of measuring spoons in my mouth and a copy of The Joy of CookingIMG_0811 cradled under my arm.  I recently discovered, however, that I like to cook.  But Im not a great cook.  Cooking is less a culinary challenge and more a moving meditation.  It relaxes my mind and clears my head of chatter – especially when the results fill my home with sounds and smells and textures that wrap all my senses in comfort.

The problem is I tend to view recipes as simple rough outlines.  If the recipe calls for lemon I might choose lime.  If it asks for one cup of walnuts but all I have are a few almonds and some hazelnuts then what choice do I have?  If my measuring spoon is dirty Im happy to guess-timate in the palm of my hand.

This is all well and good for an experienced chef.  Theres nothing wrong with being adventurous.  But up until a year-or-so ago my idea of cooking involved a can opener, a tin of tomato soup and a nice stack of saltines.  Oh.  And cheese.  So it should be no surprise that at times I am responsible for some unmitigated kitchen disasters.

My most recent batch of hummus is a good example.  I pride myself on my ability to crush a garbanzo bean with lemon, tahini and garlic. We know I can make hummus.  I proved it here.  But somewhere along the way I lost my hummus mojo.  Even my beloved, who is single handedly responsible for building my culinary confidence, passed on a second bite of the hummus I served last night (although he took three helpings of my barley salad).  I blame the tahini that I attempted to make with my Omega Juicer – but thats another story.

Meanwhile…Do you remember refrigerator pickles from childhood?  Or piccalilli?  Just thinking that word made my mouth water.  And who says theres not a mind/body connection?

IMG_0966Im leaving on a well-deserved weekend break with my beloved but weve too many vegetables just past their prime.  So today I decided to try Ted Allens recipe for refrigerator pickles from this months AARP magazine.  Maybe its fairer to say I decided to try my version of Ted Allens recipe for refrigerator pickles.  I didnt have white vinegar and so I used apple cider.  I was missing a few of the herbs he called for and substituted my own.  I didnt even have the vegetables he suggested and instead filled my two-quart jar with my about-to-wilt veggies that stood no chance of surviving the weekend.

The kitchen smells good and the vegetables, now drowning in garlic and ginger brine, look beautiful.  But it will be three days – the length of our little break by the ocean – before we know if well indulge in a second bite.

Heres hoping.

IMG_0968Meanwhile, the little garden that could has produced cherry tomatoes that taste like candy and our first heirlooms.  Ive been slicing the heirlooms and serving them with a drizzle of balsamic and fresh basil.