yuzu-ginger avocado toast

folks, i think i've created something magical. it's almost to simple of a non-recipe to write a blog post about, but it's also too delicious to not write a blog post about.

yuzu-ginger avocado mash... it's like a japanese gaucamole. plop in on toast with some gomasio and it's like the best damn avocado toast you've ever put in your pie hole. but you can come up with other fancy things to do with this magical mash. put on top of rice noodles and stir fry, or over some sushi rice with sashimi, or maybe fry up some little wontons and serve it as a dip! oh the possibilities...

last month my band retreated to orcas island in the san juans to play a show at the doe bay resort. we gathered a good group of friends to join us, stayed a few nights in adorable cabins near the ocean and played a rowdy live show in the retreat yoga studio for all the retreat guests and our friends! we enjoyed several meals at the amazing doe bay cafe and spent an afternoon at the island hoppin brewery catching up one of my oldest and dearest friends who now lives on the island. before catching a ferry home, we stopped into the natural food coop to pack a picnic lunch and i saw some samples of island-made gomasio that looked delightful. i snagged a sample and packed it home with me. 

in case you didn't already know, gomasio is a dry japanese condiment made of toasted sesame seeds, salt and sometime dried seaweed. i often used to buy the eden brand gomasio from my local coop, until they stopped carrying eden products all together due to the company's anti-birth control scandal. and the gomasio sold at nearby asian food markets were all laden with msg. so i was thrilled to find this particularly special gomasio! it's made with kelp and nettles foraged from around orcas island and blended with toasted sesame seeds. what a nourishing treat! after gobbling it down with my avocado toast i regretted not buying a full jar of it from the orcas coop! luckily, you can order online from the maker, landsea

yuzu-ginger avocado toast ~ serves 2+
sliced & toasted baguette 
1 avocado, mashed
crushed garlic
fresh yuzu or bottled yuzu juice
fresh grated ginger
thinly sliced green onion, optional
spicy chilis, optional
sea salt

combine ingredients adjusting proportions to taste. i liked tasting more ginger flavor than garlic flavor. if you don't have yuzu juice or fresh yuzus, simply use some lime juice. top over toasted baguette or sprinkle with gomasio or toasted sesame seeds! 

tarragon, mushroom & barley soup

in my last post i explained why david and i challenged ourselves to follow a fully vegan diet for the month of october. there were a few slips ups on eggs and cheese while traveling one weekend and when david found himself at a work-related dinner without any vegan options. but besides those few slips, we did pretty well!

the shift in diet was fairly easy for me, but i already ate primarily vegetarian and had an expansive repertoire of vegan recipes. i guess the more surprising part was the lack of cravings for animal products (besides runny eggs!) also, i'm not sure if it was the change in diet or the change in seasons to colder, wetter weather, but i found myself eating a lot of carbs (grains, sweet potatoes, sprouted grain bread) and my sweet tooth was raging! david's sweets consumptions didn't change much though, so i'm not going to blame the vegan diet. but now for november, i'm considering giving up sugar for the month to recalibrate myself!

moving forward, i think we will both shift our diets towards more vegan foods. although i'm still not ready to give up pastured eggs and the occasional fancy cheese!! david enjoyed the fact that he wasn't buying lunches as much this past month, and i enjoyed the culinary challenge of coming up with new creative vegan meals - like this soup recipe - that would satisfy even our biggest meat-eating dinner guests. and if you didn't follow my suggestions from the last post, go now and watch cowspiracy!

tarragon, mushroom & barley soup ~ serves 3-4 
* you could easily double this recipe to serve a crowd or for extra left overs! 
1/2 cup hulled barley
1/2 cup french lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 medium size yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 quarts water
2 sprigs each of tarragon and fresh thyme
1 heaping tablespoon takii mushroom umami powder (reduce added salt if using takii)
1 small bunch toscano kale
pinch red chili flakes
salt & pepper to taste

notes: i cooked my lentils and barley in separate pots, so that the finished broth was less cloudy and each ingredient was cooked to tenderness without getting mushy. i'm sure you could also make this a one-pot-meal, instead of dirtying three pots if you prefer. if you don't enjoy the flavor of tarragon, you could use only fresh thyme or add in some rosemary. finally, the takii powder is an amazing umami boost to the broth, but purely optional. the mushrooms, onions and herbs will give the broth plenty of flavor! 

simmer barley in 3 cups of water until tender, but not mushy - about 40 minutes. in a second pot, simmer lentils with 2 cups of water until tender, but holding together - about 25 minutes. once fully cooked, strain and rinse and set to side until stock is finished.

for the stock: crush/mince garlic and set aside for 10 minutes before adding to heat. slice onions and sauté with olive oil in soup pot for 5 minutes. add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and sauté for an additional few minutes until mushrooms are almost fully cooked. add chopped celery, garlic, chili flakes, salt, pepper, takii powder (if using) and 2 quarts of water. simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. during this time, you can clean the kale, remove the ribs, and slice into thin ribbons.

once stock is made and lentils and barley are fully cooked and rinsed, combine together in soup pot. make a small bundle of the fresh herbs, tied with kitchen string, and add to soup along with the sliced kale. if it looks like there isn't enough broth, add a bit more water. bring soup to a simmer for about 5 minutes, to wilt the kale and infuse the broth with the fresh herbs. serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

vegan october & tofu scrambles

david and i don't own a tv. we watch netflix from our laptop set out on the coffee table while we munch on messy bowls of nutritional yeast coated popcorn or dark chocolate bars. when we run out of shows to watch and - as usual - can't agree on a movie, we opt for documentaries. there were two in particular that have made some considerable impacts on us both recently. 

first we watched forks over knives, which made a powerful argument for the health benefits of a plant-based diet and explained some astounding connections between health epidemics and meat consumption over the past several decades. then we watched cowspiracy which made me regret ever ending my decade of vegetarianism. i promise, this is not a film that guilt-trips you into being vegan because of animal cruelty. peta's got that covered. instead, cowspiracy provides some mind blowing reporting on the huge environmental impacts of the meat industry. it was so undeniably convincing that david turned to me after the film and said "we should go vegan." this was the instantaneous and only partly joking reaction from a guy who has been eating meat all his life. 

i could go on and on about these two films, but instead i'll let you check them out yourself. form your own opinions. but for us, we decided to go vegan for the month of october. it's been a bigger shift in david's diet than in mine. but one thing we both miss terribly is eggs. i've never been a huge fan of tofu scrambles, but i gave it a few go's and eventually came up with a spice mix to add to the tofu that i'm really quite pleased with! i don't think i want to eat soy every morning for eternity, but i've been craving these tofu scrambles almost as much as i've been craving eggs. almost. 

tofu scramble spice mix ~ enough f
or 16+ scrambles
2/3 cup nutritional yeast powder
1/3 cup turmeric powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon, or less, cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

combine ingredients together and store in airtight container to have on hand for quick, flavorful tofu scrambles.

tofu scramble ~ serves 1
4-5 oz firm or extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon tofu scramble spice mix
1/2 - 1 cup veggies
olive oil

use a non-stick pan for easy clean up. heat a teaspoon or so of olive oil over medium heat. crumble tofu into preheated pan and then turn up to high heat. saute until the moisture from the tofu has cooked off and tofu starts to brown. now add 1 tablespoon of spice mix and scramble tofu until evenly coated with spices. once coated, if you like browned crispy bits, let tofu cook for a bit without scrambling. if you want more seasoning or salt, adjust to taste - or adjust your spice blend mix after you've tested it in a scramble once! 

when to add the veggies? you can scramble in leftover roasted veggies or tender greens just before the scramble is finished. or you can start sautéing heartier veggies (like mushrooms or onions) in your skillet before adding the tofu so that veggies are fully cooked after a few minutes of scrambling with tofu. top finished scramble with raw veggies like avocado, sliced tomatoes, kimchi, green onions - whatever you like! for a truly vegan breakfast, smear smear some coconut oil or smashed avocado on toast. 

fall foraging & chanterelle toasts

i can't claim to be an experienced forager. in fact, i'm a true novice. for years i've wanted to forage for mushrooms, but didn't know anyone who could lead me out in the woods... until recently! without even knowing that my friend becca had a secrete chanterelle spot, she offered to take me with her this week. how could i pass that up!? it's not too often people let these secretes out so willingly. i hopped in her car one early morning, picked up her friend, emily, along the way and headed about an hour outside of seattle and into the woods. i toted my camera along to take some early morning foggy mushroom photos. unfortunately i was so giddy to go that morning, i had forgotten my camera's memory card at home. so you'll just have to imagine the beauty of this foggy forest and the variety of colorful mushrooms we stumbled over. 

after the gals show me a few examples of true chanterelles and poisonous false chanterelles, i'm let loose to forage on my own. emily tells me that i have to think like a chanterelle to find them. they like to hide, but their vibrant color gives them away. we tread lightly through the pine needle-covered forest floor, watching our every step, and pausing to turn around and look back because so often you can only see them from one particular direction. it was a hugely successful hunt. we gather 6 or 7 pounds, with the bulk coming from the two experienced foragers. but my take home haul was still impressive! 

that afternoon, i invited my chef friend liz from eat seattle over and we spent the afternoon cleaning and cooking them, spooning them over toasts, sipping on white wine and chatting about food photography. it was a splendid day! the toasts turned out so incredible, i remade them the next night for a dinner party. we sat down with our toasty appetizer but our guests weren't certain they knew what chanterelles looked like raw. i made a move to get up and snag the leftover shrooms from the fridge, but david halted me and said "use your arm"... our guests gave me a look of confusion, expecting some kind of charade game, but what david really meant was for me to show them my chanterelle tattoo. oh right! that! i've got a sleeve of botanical vegetables, with one lone fungi thrown into the mix. although, according to this personality quiz from the shroom cookbook, i identify more with the king trumpet mushroom. perhaps i need more fungi tattoos... 

chanterelle toasts ~ serves 4-6
2 cups thinly sliced chanterelles 
1-2 small cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 glug - a big splash - white wine
olive oil
salt, pepper or chili flakes 
crusty bread

optional additions:
sorrel, arugula or micro greens
soft goat cheese 
lemon zest 
aleppo chili flakes

use a brush to gently clean dirt or pine needles from mushrooms, then thinly slice into roughly equally sized pieces. crush garlic and de-stem thyme. preheat cast iron or non stick skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms along with at least a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. cook until mushrooms are just nearly cooked through. then turn the heat up to medium-high and add garlic, thyme, black pepper or chili flakes and white wine. cook until white wine has evaporated off completely.

drizzle olive oil lightly over one side of sliced bread. broil until browned on just one side. remove from oven and rub toasted side with 1/2 clove garlic. salt and pepper then top with mushrooms and other optional toppings! serve with a little extra olive oil drizzled over each toast. 

moroccan chickpea & delicata squash salad

yesterday was officially the first day of fall and my leisurely summer schedule abruptly collided with a somewhat hectic start to the new season. maybe it's not even all too hectic, but my ability to prioritize and my tolerance to stress seems to have slacked off over the summer. david finally went back to teaching this past week (after an eventful seattle public school teachers strike!) and even though i'm not the one going back to school, the change in season feels like a push to get my butt back into gear... nudging me to settle back into a consistent weekly routine, kick up a bit more work for myself, and accomplish the to-do list of things i had been ignoring all summer. 

yesterday, after my yoga practice and a new apprenticeship program i started last week with my yoga mentor, i spent an hour sipping a soy latte at the new little oddfellows cafe inside the elliot bay bookstore, flipping through cookbooks and taking notes. sometimes i'll look for a specific recipe, but usually i'll just jot down notes filled with inspirational flavor combinations. i tend to get sucked into the corner of the store with the mediterranean cookbooks... surprise, surprise. i came home inspired to make something using the fall squash but with a moroccan flare. i conjured up something hearty, nourishing, and full of flavor! 

moroccan marinated chickpeas & squash ~ serves 3-4
1 medium delicata squash
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 15oz can)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely sliced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
cayenne pepper, allepo or harissa chili, to taste
salt to taste (i used about 1/2 teaspoon) 

preheat oven to 400-degrees. slice delicata squash lengthwise and remove seeds and stingy flesh. cut into half-inch thick crescents and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. spread squash out onto a baking sheet, seasoning with salt and harissa or aleppo chili flakes. roast for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through to brown both sides of the squash. let cool while preparing the marinated chickpeas. 

whisk together red wine vinegar, orange juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and a good amount of harissa (aleppo or cayenne pepper works great too!) strain and wash chickpeas and toss with vinaigrette. add finely diced red onion, herbs and golden raisins. once the squash has cooled, cut into smaller cubes and gently fold into the salad. let marinade for at least an hour or overnight! initially, there will be a lot of excess marinade - but this will get absorbed given enough time! if you don't want the mint to blacken, reserve to mix in before serving! serve over semolina cous cous or grain free cauliflower "cous cous" or mixed salad greens!