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Recipes + Ideas About Food and Community

Food Community

My mom got this shot of me and Ada goofing around at TLV (or as Ada calls it “the hummus place”).

I think about food a lot. I spend a lot of time with food too. Planning, shopping, reading magazines and blogs, sending recipes to friends, cooking, eating, talking about what we will eat next, and hosting parties where food and drink are the theme.

So what? Part of why food is so central to me is because of my family and the community of friends around food.

  • Cooking with my daughter…
  • Bringing a new mom friend some easy meals when she goes back to work…
  • Making cabbage halushka for 15 friends and acquaintances when everyone is snowed in on Christmas eve…
  • Jody’s holiday pie help line…
  • A weekly, come-as-you-are, Sunday dinner with friends…
  • Shopping at Wheatsville because it feels like a place that welcomes everyone, and has been making the best tofu sandwich in town for years…
  • Planting a shared veggie garden or watering for each other…

Having friends who you could call at 6pm and ask what they’re doing for dinner, then invite myself over and no one seems to mind…

Well, unfortunately, my family and many of the friends I’ve shared so many great meals with over the years now live in different cities. So, while I try to host as many holidays and brunches as I can, I find myself longing for the bbqs, get-togethers, and casual dinners, and struggle to find enough social time with the people I love amidst the hustle of everyday life.

So, here begins a little writing on the topic of food and community. Some nostalgia or stories. Some ideas for new tech that would make it easier to connect. And hopefully some more recipes to share.

Social Food Tech

I’d love for my devices to bring my friends more into my daily routines. I wish I saw people more often. Got to chat with them. Got to help them out with their everyday commitments. Got to cook and eat together.

Here’s some questions I’ve been asking and ideas I’ve had lately on how to strengthen my connection with others over food and to-do’s.

How might knowing and sharing about what we are cooking this week help us connect to our friends and other eaters we admire?

  • A social network built into a recipe and meal plan app. 

How might easy access to our food history help us maintain our family traditions?

  • A service that digitizes heirloom recipe cards.

How might an easier way to plan a party take the stress out of hosting or encourage more gatherings?

  • An alternative to group text messages that provides an easier way to plan a pot-luck or holiday meal.

I use shared Notes on my Apple devices to manage our weekly meal plan and shopping list with my husband and mother. I’d love to hear from anyone who is passionate about a digital solution they use.

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

1 Onion, diced

2 Celery Ribs, diced

3 Garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs Coconut Oil

1 can Coconut Milk

1 cup Water

1 Tbs Harissa

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Cinnamon, Cumin, Coriander, to taste

Heat coconut oil and saute onion and celery till softened, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another minute being careful not to brown the veggies.  Add squash, water, coconut milk, harissa, spices, and salt to taste.  Simmer about 15 minutes till squash is very soft.  Puree till smooth.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 lb Ground Chicken

6-8 Button Mushrooms, diced

1 can Water Chestnuts, diced

1 small Yellow Onion, diced

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Head Butter or Leaf Lettuce, leaves separated

2 Large Handfuls of Basil, Cilantro, and Mint

1 Cucumber, cut in half then slice into thin spears

Hoisin Sauce (from omnivorescookbook.com)

  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic , grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste

Saute onion in olive oil until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add mushroom and cook until they begin to lose their moisture and soften, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix up hoisin sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Remove onion and mushroom mixture to a bowl.  Add chicken to the pan and cook until just cooked through.  Add mushroom mixture back to pan, add water chestnuts and mix in hoisin sauce.  Stir frequently until fully heated through.

Serve family style.  For assembly, top one piece of lettuce with chicken mixture, then a generous helping of herbs and a few cucumber spears.

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

2 or 3 Japanese Eggplants, chopped into 1″ pieces

3 Garlic Cloves, sliced

3/4 cup Water

1 Tbs Corn Starch

1 Tbs Tamari (or more to taste)

Black Pepper

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add eggplant and saute till beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Mix together water, tamari, garlic, black pepper to taste, and corn starch.  Add mixture to eggplant and stir to evenly coat.

Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until eggplant is fully tender.   Season to taste with more black pepper and tamari if needed.

Roasted Butternut Miso Soup

Butternut Miso Soup

I have Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy home from the library at the moment.  There is a recipe for “Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk, Miso and Lime.”  that looks delicious.  I had several of the key ingredients around here, but improvised to such an extent that I can’t say I’ve actually made the recipe.  So here is my simple, rainy Saturday take on butternut squash soup.  Perhaps next weekend I’ll make the real deal.

2 Tbs Sesame Oil

1 medium Butternut Squash, roasted and peeled

1 Onion, chopped

1 inch Ginger, chopped

1 15oz can Coconut Milk

+/- 1 cup water

1 Tbs Harissa (or to taste)

1/2 lemon, juice only

2 Tbs Miso

Chives or other herb to garnish

Roast the butternut squash according to your favorite method.  This step can be done a day or two ahead if its convenient.

Heat the sesame oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and ginger until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked butternut squash and coconut milk until well mixed.  Stir in water until desired consistency, about 1 cup.  Add harissa paste to taste.  Allow soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Blend soup until very smooth.    Mix the lemon juice and miso together then stir into the soup.    Allow to cool slightly then top with a green garnish of your choice before serving.

 

Fennel Radish Salad

My friend Sue taught me to maFennel Radish Saladke a version of this salad a few years ago in Portland. Its one of my favorite spring salads and is the first thing I think to make when I see fennel at the market.

1 decent sized bulb of Fennel, sliced very thinly, plus fronds for garnish
1 bunch Radishes, sliced very thinly
1 lemon, zested + juiced
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (The best you have. I love Central Texas Olive Ranch.)
Flaky Sea Salt, to taste
fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste

Combine fennel, radishes, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, a pinch of salt, pepper and olive oil. Pour over veggies and let rest 30 minutes or more. Adjust salt to taste and garnish with a few fennel fronds.

Summer Squash Risotto

I suppose I have a risotto for all seasons. This one is just right for a cool, rainy spring evening in Austin; comforting but bright and summery. The base is sweet onions just harvested from my garden. Pulling 50 beautiful little onions out of the dirt is a great way to celebrate the end of another semester. Cooking up recipes full of them is a great way to celebrate being on vacation.


2 Tbs Butter
1 cup Sweet Onion [Texas 1015 or the like, chopped]
4 Garlic Cloves [minced]
2 medium Summer Squash [mixed colors, grated]
1/2 cup White Wine
4 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup Arborio Rice
Lemon Zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped Flat Leaf Parsley + Basil
Salt to Taste

Heat vegetable broth and keep at a low simmer.

Melt butter in a large shallow sauce pan over medium low heat. Saute sweet onion till translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic + summer squash. Season with salt, depending on how salty your veggie broth is. Cook for a few minutes more, until the squash just begins to soften. Add rice + toast for a minute. Add wine + stir. After all liquid is absorbed, add about a half cup of vegetable broth. Stir frequently until liquid is absorbed. Repeat until all broth has been added and rice is tender and mixture is creamy. Stir in basil + parsley. Serve in shallow bowls garnished with plenty of lemon zest.

Serves 4 as a substantial side.

Navy Bean Soup

I loved my grandpa’s navy bean soup as a kid.  This is a vegan twist on the original with smoked olive oil for richness + collard greens in place of celery. Its perfect with glass of red wine for a very satisfying winter meal.

1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Onion [about 1 cup, chopped]
2 Carrots [about 2 1/2 cups, sliced]
3 Garlic Cloves [minced]
1 Yukon Gold Potato [skin on, chopped]
2 Tbs Tomato Paste
4 cups Vegetable Broth [or water with good quality veggie bullion]
Sea Salt [to taste]
1 Tbs Smoked Olive Oil
2 1/2 cups Navy Beans [cooked till very tender*]
6 Collard Green Leaves [about 3 cups, sliced thinly]

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large pot. Sauté onion for about 5 minutes, add carrot + garlic and sauté a few minutes more. Add remaining ingredients + bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Season with sea salt to taste.

*If you use canned beans, don’t add salt until the end of cooking so the beans cook the whole while + get very tender. I always pressure cook my beans. It yields a far better texture in a fraction of the time of stove top cooking. Its easy to pressure cook a big batch + freeze a few two cup containers for easy same day use. No need to ever buy another can of beans.

Sesame Soba

1 Tbs Tahini
1 Tbs Tamari
2 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1 Tbs Honey
1 Tbs Sesame Seeds

2 Daikon Radishes [sliced into matchsticks]
2 Carrots [sliced into matchsticks]
1 Kohlrabi [sliced into matchsticks]
Swiss Chard or Kale [to garnish]

8 oz. Soba Noodles

Cook soba noodles in boiling water till just tender then rinse under cool water. Mix tahini, tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey + sesame seeds in a small bowl then toss veggies, noodles + sauce together in a larger bowl.

Serves 3-4. For a main course, top with a poached egg or some spicy or simple baked tofu.

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