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May 2009

South American Quinoa Stew

Quinoa-vegetable stew

I know I'm going crazy with the recipes lately, but 'tis the season. Today we are serving "South American Quinoa Stew" at the cafe - South American because nearly all the ingredients originated there. We got ours from the generous farmers at the 441 market.

Instead of the beans and grain we often add to soup, today it was just a grain - but a mighty one: quinoa (pronounced keen'-wa). Next to the potato, quinoa was apparently the most important food to the Incas back in the day, surpassing even maize in popularity. It's unusually nutritious - one of the view vegetables that contain a balance of amino acids, forming complete protein. It's as protein-rich as meat is.  Even though it's not a local food for us, it's good to keep in mind and learn how to use densely nutritious food like this, especially when times are tough.

Here's the "recipe" (we use this term loosely) for today's soup. I've highlighted ingredients that were grown locally.

South American Quinoa Stew


1 onion, chopped*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup quinoa
1 potato, diced*
2 yellow squash or zucchini*
1 bell pepper, chopped*
2 carrots*
1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. coriander
salt to taste
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
Optional: grated cheese and/or chopped chives*

Saute onion in olive oil until transparent; add spices and stir. Rinse quinoa, then drain and add to pot along with vegetables. Cover with water by at least four inches. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer till carrots are tender.  Add canned tomatoes and salt to taste. Serve with cheese and/or chives.

Fun things to do with bread dough and a bunch o' veggies

Kneading Dough 4

We seem to be swimming in vegetables lately. Farmers at the market have been gifting us with wonderful stuff each week after the market and our own little garden is beginning to produce. We've been serving squash, beans, onions, peppers, tomatoes, okra daily, and each week's particular combination determines what our weekly cafe soup will be (something a la squash this week for sure!).  Within the last 24 hours we've also used them on pizza and in veggie pockets. The dough is the same for either one - and the veggies were the same too, although with very different results.

Last night's pizza consisted of different combinations of "veggie pizza:" Basil and Tomato, Squash and Pepper, Onion and Pepper, and All of the Above. Bella!

The veggie pockets were born out of desire to share lunch more often with hungry folks - without the environmental impact of dishes to wash or to dispose of. We've had quite a few different combos so far, including Greens and Beans (collards and kidneys seasoned with red pepper and vinegar), Cheesy Rice and Greens (Rice, colby-jack cheese, and swiss chards [the bright lights variety is so colorful and pretty] seasoned with salt and pepper), and today's Peppery Squash and Rice (yellow squash, zucchini, banana peppers, mozzarella, and onions seasoned with ground chipotle, oregano and basil).

Veggie pockets [640x480]

One of the pleasures of both dishes is the art of combining ingredients for both taste and beauty. Most of our folks like spicy food, and the spicy saltiness combines well with a slightly sweeter bread dough (I double the sugar in the bread/pizza dough recipe). And the beauty of various colors together creates a healthier mix for the veggie pocket as well. I added peppers today just to get a little more green in there, and it tasted great. If I had had some red pepper flakes I would have added those instead of the ground pepper for the same reason. If you like to play with food, this is an ideal venue for having at it.

The other pleasure is that they lend themselves so well to group preparation. The recipes and technique are simple, so it's a nice mindless activity to include a child or friend in. Last night Riley assisted John with the bread kneading and cheese grating. This morning, several people stopped what they were doing to come roll out some rounds for the veggie pockets. The extra help hurried the process along at the end (I was running late), and it was fun. 

Here are the recipes:

Basic bread dough (two large pizzas or about 32 veggie pockets [you can freeze them])

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons yeast
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups water
Enough white dough to make a stiff dough

Mix whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, and sugar together. Add water and stir together with a whisk. Add white flour until stiff dough forms. Knead for about 10 minutes.


Roll dough out into two (or more if your pans are small) disks and place on oiled pans. Cover with marinara sauce, then grated mozzarella, then sliced veggies. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes (watch it carefully).

Veggie pockets

Double the sugar in the bread dough recipe. Divide dough into approximately 30 pieces (more or less), shape dough into disks 4-6 inches across. Place sauteed vegetable/grated cheese/bean mixture in center of disk leaving about 1/2 inch on the edges. Fold dough over and seal with fingers. Bake on oiled baking sheets in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Southern Pepper Sauce

Pepper Sauce

We were joking the other night about how quickly hot sauce disappears from our tables on café days. People don’t just sprinkle it on, they apparently pour it with wild abandon on the soup – regardless of how spicy the soup started out. One of our community members noted that the size and shape of the typical Tabasco-type bottle is perfect for keeping in one’s back pocket. This same friend spent some time in jail and said hot sauce, though contraband, was often smuggled in and shared among inmates. I think it’s a southern thing.

Growing up, my grandparents always, always had a mason jar of the homemade stuff on the shelf near the kitchen table. Apparently the combination of hot peppers and vinegar rendered it bacteria proof, but I keep mine in the fridge just in case. It doesn’t cool it down a bit, and it will knock your socks off when sprinkled on black-eyed peas, field peas, and collard greens. It tastes good when a little migrates over the sliced tomatoes (which will surely be on your plate in early summer if you are Southern) too. 

Directions: Rinse little hot peppers and put in a clean jar, cover with apple cider vinegar. Let sit for a few weeks.  Pour over everything.

Spunky Oaxacan Squash and Potato Soup

Spunky Oaxacan

I was so happy to see potatoes bountiful at the market again. I know you can get them year around almost anyplace, but this is part of the joy of eating local food in season: you look forward to things like potatoes! Planted in January in the dead of cold, potato plants are lovely, deep green, bushy things in the garden. Their tubers are like buried treasure in the early spring - new potatoes for potato salad, and now full-blown potatoes ready for soup.

We used market squash, onions, and green beans as well as cilantro from a friend to make this practically-local soup. It was so delicious, it took me by surprise. Something about it is just right for the hot weather we're having. Folks down at the cafe seem to be liking it too.

Spunky Oaxacan Squash and Potato Soup

2 cups onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground chipotle peppers (found at Ward's - delicious)
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups diced potatoes
2 cups chopped squash
2 cup chopped green beans
2 large cans tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
enough water to make soup

Optional toppings:
Sour cream

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil till tender.  Add coriander, cumin, and chipotle pepper, and stir around a bit. Add a little water to keep from burning while you thow in the green beans and potatotes. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer till potatoes and beans are tender. Add tomatoes and squash, bring to a boil and cook just a few minutes till squash are tender. Add kidney beans and enough water to create adequate amount of soup broth (thick or thin, up to you). Salt to taste, bring to boil, then turn heat off and serve with  a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro if desired.

Potatoes, we are glad you have returned to us!

Ode to the Potato

"They eat a lot of French fries here," my mother
   announces after a week in Paris, and she's right,
not only about les pommes frites but the celestial tuber
   in all its forms: rotie, purée, not to mention
au gratin or boiled and oiled in la salade niçoise.
   Batata edulis discovered by gold-mad conquistadors
in the West Indies, and only a 100 years later
   in The Merry Wives of Windsor Falstaff cries,
"Let the skie raine Potatoes," for what would we be
   without you—lost in a sea of fried turnips,
mashed beets, roasted parsnips? Mi corazón, mon coeur,
   my core is not the heart but the stomach, tuber
of the body, its hollow stem the throat and esophagus,
   leafing out to the nose and eyes and mouth. Hail
the conquering spud, all its names marvelous: Solanum
   tuberosum, Igname, Caribe, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold.
When you turned black, Ireland mourned. O Mr. Potato Head,
   how many deals can a man make before he stops being
small potatoes? How many men can a woman drop
   like a hot potato? Eat it cooked or raw like an apple
with salt of the earth, apple of the earth, pomme de terre.
   Tuber, tuber burning bright in a kingdom without light,
deep within the earth where the Incan potato gods rule,
   forging their golden orbs for the world's ravening gorge.

"Ode to the Potato" by Barbara Hamby, from Babel. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.

Cucumbers to Refrigerator Pickles


Harvesting begins today! Our first cucumbers are ready and it looks like hot peppers are right behind. We were out early this morning weeding, spreading mulch, watering and planting Seminole pumpkins (good growers in the heat). That's it for planting, except for possibly filling in any spaces that present themselves with a few zinnia and sunflower seedlings.

One of my favorite thing to do with fresh cucumbers is to turn them into refrigerator pickles, and it takes about five minutes. The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook - a classic  during the 70s back-to-the-land movement - has a delicious recipe that I've been using for a while. Sweet onions, like Vidalias, are also being harvested right now and are just perfect for this. While I'm feeling anything but "cool as a cucumber" during this ridiculous hot spell (90s in May? This does not bode well...), we'll enjoy eating them for sure.


2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 - 1/2 sweet onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey

Place vinegar, salt and honey in a jar and shake till blended. Pour over cucumber slices. Store in refrigerator for 3 days.

Garden week 5