My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Vermont Winter Souffle 0

Posted on February 08, 2011 by crankycheryl

One of these days I’m going to rename this blog, “Eat Butternut Squash or Die, Mofo!

And in preparation for that, here’s a truly fabulous, gluten-free, vegetarian use for the ubiquitous winter workhorse itself.  It’s adapted from Barbara Kafka’s absolutely fantastic Vegetable Love, a gem for anyone who eats vegetables, and a must if you’re a CSA member.   I hadn’t set out to make a dinner out of squash, but I came across the book just after roasting one, and it all sort of came together in a beautiful way.

I was interested to read this:

“There has been a rebellion in recent years in France against the rise of flour.  [!]  I don’t agree, but when it comes to vegetable souffles, the taste of the vegetable is often more pronounced without the use of flour.”

A few more pages of flipping landed me on Kafka’s brilliant combination of rhubarb and beets, and since I had those on hand too, that became the side dish.

Very Vermont Squash & Cheddar Souffle

Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Puree Souffle
About 4 dinner servings

1.  Preheat oven to 400 with a rack in the center position.

2.  Generously butter a 6- or 8-cup souffle dish (or any 6-8 cup round, straight-sided oven-proof dish).  Lightly coat with:

  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese (I was out and so used potato flakes.  The reason for this ingredient is to give the souffle something to climb as it puffs up, so the coarser texture was a good substitute.)

3.  Separate:

  • 4 eggs

(cheese grater, yes; souffle eater, no)

with whites in medium bowl.  Set aside.


4.  Whisk together:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. butternut (or other) squash puree
  • egg yolks, one at a time
  • 1 c. grated cheddar cheese (I used Cabot’s 50% fat, my standby)
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
  • sprinkle ground ginger
  • sprinkle cayenne


5.  Using your handheld blender or stand mixer or whatever you like for such things, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.

6.  Using a rubber spatula, take a generous scoop of the whites and fold them into the cheese mixture with gentle, sure strokes until it’s mostly combined.

Fold in the remaining whites until fairly well-combined, remembering to keep a fairly gentle touch and not pushing out the air in the egg whites.

7.  Scrape the mixture into your prepared dish and put on a baking sheet in the oven (if you use an 8-cup dish you can skip the baking sheet as it oughtn’t spill over the sides).  Bake for 25 minutes or until, as Kafka describes, the souffle is, “puffed, golden brown and only slightly wiggly in the center.”

Since souffles are notorious for deflating, I snapped this picture right away, before I jostled it on its way out of the oven.

And then it was still nice and puffy and so I took another picture.

Still puffy!  I was so excited I took another.

STILL PUFFY!  But, okay, enough was enough.  So then I put away the camera, cut into it and ate.  Serve immediately, or at room temperature, or even cold for an easy leftover lunch the next day.

A couple of notes:

  • It had been a while since I’d made a souffle, and was a little sad to discover I had lost my proper souffle dish somewhere along the way.  I used an 8-cup Pyrex round baking dish and it worked just fine.
  • One advance step that I always try to do, and usually forget, is taking out the eggs about half an hour before I intend to start cooking so that they can come to room temperature.  This makes a difference when you’re trying to get the whites beaten until fluffy, but don’t worry too much if you skip it.
  • Though I usually make souffles quite firm, Kafka offers this, “… the French prefer their souffles baveuse, creamy in the middle.  This semi-liquid center serves almost as a sauce.”  I did, and the contrast was nice … if initially a little alarming.


Warm Rhubarb & Beet Salad
Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Love
About 4 servings

Combine in a medium saucepan:

  • 5 roasted beets, peeled
  • 2 c. chopped rhubarb stalk (I had it in the freezer: maybe you’ve got some too)
  • 1/2 c. cider
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • (I had this on hand, which I used instead of the cider and balsamic)
  • generous sprinkle kosher salt

Cook over medium-low heat until rhubarb starts to break down and liquids are reduced to syrup.

Socca 2

Posted on November 15, 2010 by crankycheryl

The purity of these little breads makes me realize how very impure and inconsistent my food life really is.  Does everyone vacillate between Fluff & shortening-frosted cupcakes and vegan, gluten-free, organic goodness?

Maude was so very right in the movie when she said, “Consistency is not really a human trait.”

I think I’m quite human.

Be this as it may, I do continue to try the Bittman-esque vegan-&-unprocessed before 6:00 p.m. approach.  And this simple, vegan little pancake is just the ticket for a hearty and healthy lunch when I’m home.  It’s a specialty of southern France, a sort of chickpea crepe that’s nutty and hearty and just lovely.  According to St. David Leibovitz, they’re not really to be made at home … though he does recommend this recipe.

And here’s my own take on it.

About 4

1.  Whisk together very thoroughly:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Let stand for at least one hour.

2.  Place a large, heavy skillet in the oven and preheat oven to 450.  Once hot, carefully pour into pan:

  • 1 T. olive oil

3.  Pour 1/2 of the batter into the pan and sprinkle with:

  • 2 T. spicy pumpkin seeds (optional)

Bake 12 – 15 minutes, or until set, then flip and broil for 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately – as is, or topped with vegetables, cheese or whatever you like.  In season, it’s lovely with a meltingly ripe tomato and a handful of mesclun.

Repeat with the remaining batter, but keep an eye on that first pancake as anyone who’s around is likely to try to make off with it.

Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes 1

Posted on October 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I was late, late, late to go to our neighbors’ house to watch their kids the other night, but I had a chicken all defrosted and a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be eaten before our next CSA pick-up.

Thank goodness, Molly Stevens’s The Art of Braising has become part of my cooking lexicon, and I knew what I had to do to make a successful braise come together.

So with very little thought, and a great deal of luck that I didn’t lose a fingertip in the chopping, this came together and got into the oven in a little less than half an hour.

Lazy Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot that can go both on the range and into the oven, melt together until nicely bubbling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil (not extra virgin, which isn’t for cooking)

2.  Generously sprinkle:

  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper – all over
  • 1 5 – 6 lb. chicken

Add to pan, and brown on all sides by leaving the chicken in place for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat.  Don’t wiggle it around too much or you’ll tear the skin and also not get the bronzing that you want.

3.  While the chicken is cooking, prep your vegetables.

Coarsely chop:

  • 1 head fennel  (I use what I call “the cleaver test” to see what’s tender enough to eat.  If my cleaver slices easily through the stalks, I’ll cook with them.  Otherwise save them for stock or compost them.)
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 4 potatoes (I had a mix of white and purple)
  • 1 medium eggplant (I happened to have some around – the dish will be fine without it)

4.  Here’s one of my new favorite time savers for a braise.  Take:

  • 3 cloves of garlic

and leave their skins on and don’t chop.   Put them aside.  You’ll see why in a minute.

5.  When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate.  Add a little oil if necessary to get a good covering for the bottom of the pan.  Add the vegetables, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.   Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are getting nice and fragrant and starting to wilt.  Add the garlic cloves whole, just tucking them into the vegetables.  The peels have lots of flavor, which they’ll transfer to your braise.  And when you uncover the cloves when you eat, you can just squeeze out the garlic itself, which will have been mellowed by cooking and absorbed all those great flavors.

6.  Add:

  • 1/2 c. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

Then bring to a boil and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Place the chicken on top, cover with a lid, and place in the middle of the oven.

7.  Cook for about 2 hours, until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh when pierced.   Let the chicken sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then carve and serve with scoops of vegetables.

Muy Macho Sweet Potato Hummus 3

Posted on August 04, 2009 by crankycheryl

Well, no, that can’t be quite right.  How on earth could a lowly little bean puree be macho?  Why, when it’s made into Sweet Potato Hummus by Macheesmo, of course!

I had come across his post a couple of days ago, and because my turn for the August cohousing meal had arrived and I had planned to do a vaguely middle Eastern menu, I had to fit it in.

Then, as usual, I left my laptop at home when I went up to our common house to cook, so I was left to wing it.  I remembered it had tahini in it, I remembered it was spiced, and off we went.

Now that I see Macheesmo’s, I see that I went pretty far afield.  But it was awfully good, and you can now feel free to make one version or the other.

  • 1 lb. dried chick peas, cooked and cooled (or 4 cans chick peas, drained and rinsed.  How do I know this is the equivalent?  Here’s how I know this is the equivalent.)
  • 1 lb. tahini
  • 2 sweet potatoes, baked at 400 for 1 hour, then cooled
  • ~1/3 c. olive oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 T. smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 t. ground coriander seed
  • salt to taste

Put it all in a food processor and blend until very smooth.  You can even get your little one to join in the fun of scooping the beans in.  Not that he’ll try the finished product, no matter that he helped make it and adores hummus and loves sweet potatoes.  No, no, he’ll not eat the result because IT’S NOT WHITE!

Sir Z. blocking the noise of the food processor with his rice bag helmet.  Awesome.

Sir Z. blocking the noise of the food processor with his rice bag helmet. Awesome.

Green Tea Salad, or, The Legacies We Don't Choose 0

Posted on May 30, 2009 by crankycheryl
Leaves of Green Tea

Leaves of Green Tea

The summer before last, my mother and I made plans for her to come for lunch one day.  I was searching through the cupboards for inspiration when I spied a bag of green tea.  A dear family friend had brought it back from China the winter before, not long before she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She had died earlier that spring, and as I looked at the bag in my hand, I felt my eyes grow misty.  I had a napa cabbage from our CSA share in the fridge, and  remembered a recipe for Burmese Green Tea Salad from the excellent Hot & Spicy & Meatless 2, and I knew I wanted to make it in memory of Ann.

Ann was a lifelong family friend who I thought of like an aunt.   She was there through my childhood, and then visited us in Vermont when we moved here.  She and Mark would come and we would go for Sunday brunches and birding walks.  They were the first to show me the snow geese who visit near here on their way to and from breeding grounds each year.  They themselves were migratory friends, stopping here to listen and laugh about whatever was happening in our lives, greeting my children when they were born, bringing gifts and showing pictures of their own grandchildren.  She was a mom of two sons who I admired and looked to for advice as I began to raise my own.

I reflected on all this as I began gathering ingredients for the salad.  The preparation became a tribute, noble and important.  I pressed, marinated and baked tofu to give us some protein.   My mom came over, and we ate, talking about Ann, and trying to decide whether we liked the salad.  It was a little weird eating all that tannic tea, but we ate until it was gone.

Later that afternoon, the boys and I were invited to a playground for a birthday party.  It was around then that I realized I was feeling quite strange.  The kids noisily descending and climbing the slide seemed especially funny, and I couldn’t seem to stop talking to the other moms.  Not that I was inclined to try.  I thought, “Gosh, I seem kind of wired!”

I stopped and thought about what I had eaten and drank that day, I remembered the salad, and did some quick math.  I had doubled the recipe, since we were having it for lunch instead of an appetizer, so that we had each eaten about 1/3 of a cup of green tea, which was about, oh, 18 cups of caffeinated tea.  My mom and I both ended up awake until one that morning; I used the time to reflect on how none of us really gets to choose the legacy we leave behind, or how we’ll be remembered.  It may have been surreal, but I like to think Ann would have approved.

La Phet (Green Tea Salad)
Hot & Spicy & Meatless 2, as collected by Richard Sterling from Renatto Buhlman, executive chef of the Strand Hotel.

4 servings (but better make it more like 6 or 8, just in case)

  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 c. peanut oil
  • 1/3 c. loose green tea leaves
  • 2 T. coarsely chopped peanuts
  • 1 T. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 t. sugar
  • 3/4 c. finely shredded napa cabbage or bok choy
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 t. cayenne powder

For garnish:

  • Lime wedges
  • Whole dried red chiles

Fry the garlic in 2 teaspoons of the oil until it starts to brown.

Combine the tea leaves and the remainder of the oil, and, using your fingers, knead the oil into the leaves until the oil is well distributed.  Let the mixture sit at least one hour or until the leaves soften.  If your tea is extremely dy, you may want to add a few drops of water.  Add the garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar, cabbage, lime juice, and cayenne and mix well.  Garnish with lime and chiles and serve.

April CoHousing Meal 0

Posted on April 06, 2009 by crankycheryl

april-coho-005I love when I walk through the community kitchen here at Burlington CoHousing and see someone wearing the brightly striped apron I brought up there when we moved in.  (Realizing I didn’t need to actually own three aprons.)  Or how my little rusty red wagon was missing yesterday when I came home because a neighbor had it up the path, clearing the dry grey sticks from the herb plants growing in our rock wall, letting the new green shoots of sage and thyme out into the light.

We live close together here, each with our own homes, but connected to each other.  At any given moment when I look out a window, I see Charles walking down the path with power tools or a wheelbarrow, heading for the barn.  Or members of the Garden Committee heading off to mark plots and build terraces.  Or Sharyl and Peter and their black and white dog Ocsy going for a walk in the woods.   Visitors, neighbors bringing their compost to the pile, young, old, fast and slow, all humming along together.

With all my busyness, I can’t do as much around here as I one day will.  But for now, I can share wagons and aprons, and when my turn comes, I can offer delicious food that any neighbor could enjoy.  Today’s dinner is my latest attempt to do that.

Feniger, of Too Hot Tamales fame, returned to India for a visit with a friend, and came home with wonderful recipes.  I’m sure this trip is one of the inspirations for her new restaurant, which I’d love to get myself to.

  • 2/3 c. yellow split peas
  • 1 2/3 c. basmati rice
  • 3 T. ghee, or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 t. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 t. Garam Masala
  • 1/2 t. turmeric
  • 3 to 4 c. water
  • Salt

Soak the peas and rice separately in enough water to cover amply – the peas for 3 hours and the rice for 1 hour.  Drain.

Heat the ghee or oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet or saucepan large enough to accommodate the rice and peas.  Add the cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the peas and rice and stir to coat with the ghee/oil, then add the cilantro, garam masala, turmeric, 3 cups water and 1 t. salt.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the peas and rice are soft and the liquid has been absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes.  If necessary, add more water in 1/2-c. increments.  Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes to steam.

    While peas and rice are cooking, make the onion relish:

    • 1 white onion, quartered and very thinly sliced
    • 1/2 t. salt
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • 1/2 t. paprika
    • 1/2 t. cayenne
    • 2 T. chopped cilantro

    Toss all ingredients together, and serve on the side with rice and peas.

    Blueberry-Mango-Maple Sorbet

    april-coho-007Yummy!  The thing to remember with frozen stuff is that sugar and fat are what keep your treats from freezing into solid blocks of ice – so when you start getting kooky and inventing your own flavors, make sure you’ve got sufficient fat (cream, coconut cream, tofu) and/or sugar (honey, maple, even – gasp! – corn syrup if you’re inclined).  If I hadn’t already been putting coconut in the main course, I would have used coconut cream in this.  But I wanted to keep it dairy and soy free, and I didn’t want to repeat a flavor, so I added a bit more maple than I otherwise might have.

    • 2 14-oz. cans chopped mango
    • 1 c. rice milk
    • 1 lbs. frozen blueberries
    • 1 1/2 c. maple syrup

    Blend all together, in batches if necessary, until smooth, and then freeze in ice cream maker according to its instructions

    Spinach Potato Soup 0

    Posted on March 24, 2009 by crankycheryl


    So we were planning a fund raiser for the cohousing playground, and it turned into The Souper Supper, with a few of us mamas making soup and bread and brownies.  We wanted a nice assortment, so Kiley made a chunky tomato, and Ming made a Nepali sprouted bean soup (and dressed us all in beautiful, traditional Sherpa outfits).  And I made this one so we’d have something green without the expense or bother of salad for 60.

    fixed-sherpa-dress20 servings

    • 8 lbs. baking potatoes, baked and peeled to whatever degree you prefer.
      4 10-oz. bags frozen spinach, thawed
    • 8 c. vegetarian stock,plus optional extra
    • 8 c. soy milk, plus optional extra
    • 1/4 c. olive oil (not extra virgin)
    • 4 large yellow onions, finely chopped
    • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
    • 1 qt. soy creamer
    • 1 t. nutmeg
    • 2 T. dijon mustard
    • 2 t. smoked paprika
    • 1 t. powdered lemon peel
    • salt to taste (I’d start with 1/2 t. per pot)

    Puree potatoes and spinach in several batches in a food processor or blender with just a little soy milk, leaving just a little bit of chunky texture.  Have a large mixing bowl at the ready to hold each batch as it’s done.  Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in each of two large (8 qt.) pots until rippling, then add onions and cook until translucent over medium-low heat; turn heat down to low and stir in chopped garlic and cook until fragrant.  Stir half of the potato-spinach mixture into each pot, and half the remaining soy milk and stock, stirring to combine well.  Stir half the soy mixture into each pot, and then half of the spices and seasonings.  Whisk, whisk, whisk until thoroughly combined.   Add more soy milk and/or stock until it’s the texture you like.  For me, I wanted it just liquid enough to be a definite soup and not milky green mashed potatoes.

    Turn heat down to low, and taste for salt.  Serve at once, and for heaven’s sake, don’t leave the second pot on the burner while you go traipsing off with your friends and neighbors and burn it before you even get to try any.  But hopefully if this does happen, you too will have two other delicious soups to enjoy instead.

    CoHousing Pizzoccheri, or "Mommy, What's That Awful Smell" 2

    Posted on February 24, 2009 by crankycheryl

    feb-09-032Just before New Year’s, Mark Bittman posted Pizzoccheri, a rustic pasta, cheese, cabbage and potato casserole in his column.  I’ve been ready to make it for one of our co-housing common meals since then, and at last had a chance to a couple of weeks ago.

    I basically followed the recipe, and have just a couple of notes to share:

    • Perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find buckwheat pasta, and so used whole wheat egg noodles, which seemed the closest to the right shape and texture.  Except for a gluten-free version for which I used a quinoa pasta.
    • We shredded the napa cabbage too fine, and it probably would have been better coarser … but cooking for 35 sometimes necessitates going for the easiest prep (i.e. the Cuisinart instead of a chef’s knife to dismantle 5 heads of cabbage).
    • After a long and funny discussion with the guy at the cheese counter at our downtown store, I decided to not skimp on the cheese.  $55 worth of Italian fontina later, I was having heart palpitations as I calculated the meal’s cost – but was pretty glad for having done so when I tasted the finished product.
    • Because the dish was rich, rustic and expensive (what with the $55 worth of Fontina and all), I wanted to keep the rest of the meal simple.  We served a romaine salad with fennel, orange, and a lemon dressing on the side, and a mango gelatin (including a vegetarian one) with blood orange marmalade swirled into it for dessert.  Both worked well.
    • The monkeyboys had a 50% acceptance rate on the pasta, 0% on the salad, and 100% on the gelatin.  Just wait until they find out where gelatin comes from …
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      Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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