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


Green Papaya Salad with Peaches 3

Posted on July 04, 2009 by crankycheryl

cake papaya salad bread 027It was the day of CrankyGreg’s birthday celebration, and we had decided on an easy dinner – the great dumplings and steamed buns we can buy out of the freezer at our favorite local Asian market, followed by Greg’s favorite Black Forest cake (which made my theme-loving brain whirl round & round with shouts of “BUT THAT DOESN’T GO!”).

In any case, I was listening to NPR in the morning and heard the segment on Georgia peaches.  I started thinking about interesting things to do with peaches (not that they need any help from me), and thought about dinner and wondered how it would be to put them into a green papaya salad.

Have you tried this in Thai or Vietnamese restaurants?  The papaya is shredded and dressed with a tart, lightly sweet, and spicy dressing.  The papaya stays juicy and a little bit crispy/firm, and can be accompanied by tomatoes or carrots or other vegetables, or cilantro or basil, or all the above.  The overall effect is summery and refreshing, and it’s one of those things that goes terrifically with all sorts of food.

Normally, the dressing has chopped peanuts, fish sauce and shrimp paste in it – both terrific, pungent, salty items that are at the heart of much Southeast Asian cooking.  But Greg is allergic to peanuts, and two of his best friends are vegetarian, so some substitutions were in order.  The results were delicious, and vegan, and a great counterpart to the starchy buns and steamed dumplings.  And a little too spicy, which left us all coughing after the first few bites, but I’ve adjusted the recipe so you won’t.  And though I just left out the peanuts, I’ve included them here so you can put them back in where they belong.

cake papaya salad bread 021Vegan Green Papaya Salad with Peaches
about 12 servings

  • 1 green papaya
  • 3 peaches
  • 3 limes
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 T. umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 – 2 T. sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 3 T. mild flavored oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 c. chopped basil
  • 2 T. toasted peanuts, chopped

Peel the papaya and cut it crosswise.  Scrape out the seeds and then shred it.  I used the shredding blade on my food cake papaya salad bread 024processor, but check out this for a much more impressive way to do this step.  Place in a large bowl.

Slice each peach into 8 or 10 pieces.  I usually do this by using a paring knife to make parallel cuts right to the pit all the way around, and then insert the knife and sort of scrape along the pit to free the slices.  Toss with papaya.

Juice the limes over the papaya and peaches, keeping out the pits.

In a separate bowl, combine honey, umeboshi vinegar, hot sauce, oil and garlic.  Toss with the papaya mix until thoroughly combined.  Add cilantro, basil and peanuts, toss once or twice and serve.

Salad! Flowers! Mwa Ha Ha Ha! 5

Posted on June 11, 2009 by crankycheryl

[6/13/09 Update:  Check out this picture and much more frightfully gorgeous food at Photograzing!]

crazy-hair-and-evil-salad-021So one spring day you’re in your kid’s class during their free choice time, and his friend sits down and starts drawing.  He wants to draw you, he says, and before you know it there you are in a field of grass with the black t-shirt and shorts he had you add in.

Then he puts stripes on your shorts and you ask, “”Dude!  What am I, like a bee?”  And then he’s giggling madly and drawing wings and a stinger on your behind and antennae on your head.  And then he draws flowers and you ask what kind they are and his eyes get big and sincere and he spurts out, “EVIL SORCERER FLOWERS!”  You gasp and he’s giggling again, and you ask if you can bring the picture with you.

And then later you update your Facebook status so it says, “Cheryl says things can’t be all bad if your son’s 6-year-old friend draws you as a bee-girl in a field of Evil Sorcerer flowers.”  Then a food-writer friend you really respect tells you that you owe it to the bees to post a honey recipe.  And then you realize that your CSA share is about to start, and after you pick up your greens and cheese and bread, you go home and make something like this.

Evil Sorcerer Salad with Bee-Girl Dressing

Per diner:

  • 3 cups of spicy greens (arugula, mustards and the like), cleaned
  • 2 strawberries, cut into the shape of broken hearts
  • 1 slice of a nice seedy bread, lightly toasted
  • 2 smallish slices of a brie-type cheese (if you’re local or have access to Vermont cheeses, try Does’ Leap Caprella and gleefully eat whatever isn’t destined to go on someone’s salad)
  • A sprinkle of chipotle powder
  • A handful of edible flowers like pansies and nasturtiums.  Make sure they’re organic, and really try to include the nasturtiums, which are spicy, and therefore more nefarious.

Bee-Girl Dressing (enough for 4 diners):

  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1/8 t. (a.k.a. “just a little bit”) kosher salt

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.  Put cheese on bread, sprinkle with chipotle, and then toast just until warm and melty.  Toss greens with dressing and then put onto plate.  Cut bread/cheese into triangles and place on top of salad, with broken-hearted strawberries in the middle.  Arrange evil sorcerer flowers according to your dastardly plan and serve.  Your own villainous chuckle wouldn’t hurt.


Cue the Bluebirds, Tra La 1

Posted on June 01, 2009 by crankycheryl


Oh, it’s spring.  Asparagus and wild leeks and I can stop eating apples and the birds are nesting and the frogs are singing.  I’ve planted peas and E. & Z. can decide whether or not to wear jackets and that’s one less daily battle, and the windows are open.  It’s great, really.

But as I try to keep abreast of what’s afoot in the world of food, I find that I agree with Evil Chef Mom:

“What I love about food blogs is all the ideas and recipes and whatnot. What I hate is the same thing mostly because when it’s asparagus time…. everybody and their mother’s cousin’s aunt’s father-in-law is blogging about, well, asparagus. Same with the holidays.

I know, I know, I know it’s not like you can blog about Chinese New Year on Yom Kipper.

So yay!  Spring!  But with all the going on and on about asparagus and strawberries and here-comes-summer-are-you-ready-for-outdoor-entertaining, I just find myself muttering.  I find myself muttering to the extent that I could nearly have skipped spring delicacies this year.  But fortunately, my love of eating and enjoyment of the season have won out over crankiness, and this is what I did with this year’s second batch of fiddleheads.  It was inspired by a salad from Food & Wine a few years back.  I can’t find the original now, but I’ll try to find and post a link later, once I’m over all the gallivanting and frivolity.

Roasted Fiddlehead BLT Salad
(and please see vegan version below)

Serves 2-3

  • 1 1/2 heads romaine, clean and dry and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 slices bacon, preferably Vermont Smoke & Cure, or other good-quality
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pt. grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3/4 lb. fiddlehead ferns, brown ends trimmed, soaked in 1/2 water, 1/2 white vinegar for 1/2 hour
  • 6 or 8 whole cloves of garlic, with peel
  • 1/2 c. Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen or Bonneview Mossend Blue

Place the lettuce on large dinner plates and put aside.

Cook the bacon until crisp.  Use a fork to remove from pan, and place on paper towel to remove extra fat.  Keep pan over medium heat, add potatoes, and cook until golden, about25 minutes.  Remove potatoes from pan and keep aside.  Add tomatoes, fiddleheads, and garlic cloves with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle of kosher salt, and cook until fiddleheads are crisp tender.  (You can do this on the stovetop, or – as I did – in the oven at about 400 degrees.)

Put potatoes on lettuce, then tomato-fiddlehead mixture, being sure to scrape/spoon out any juices in pan.  If desired (as I did), peel garlic cloves and add to plate.  Crumble bacon over top, add crumbled blue cheese, and serve.

A note for my vegan friends:

  • This recipe could be so easily made vegan, by substituting tempeh bacon (or this cool coconut bacon idea from  Then you could cook the potatoes with lots of olive oil and liberal amounts of smoked paprika, and maybe a bit of strong miso to the tomatoes and fiddleheads for optimum vegan umami.


Fennel Saves the Day 0

Posted on February 03, 2009 by crankycheryl

I was in a hurry and needed a quick side dish vegetable that my father could eat in spite of being on blood thinners for his heart condition, and the boys were whirling around and the television was too loud when, suddenly, the Penzey’s jar of fennel seed caught my eye.

It was  a moment of clarity in the maelstrom, and because I had leftover green beans from the night before this came together quickly:

Green Bean & Tomato Salad with Fennel & Lemon

3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut to 2-3″ length (Mine were leftover, if you weren’t so lucky you could trim and steam until crisp-tender, or else microwave and cool some frozen ones.)
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1 t. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
1/4 t. dried lemon peel
1/4 t. fennel seeds (if I were a real chef, I’d have lightly crushed them with a mortar & pestle or rolling pin, but, well, you know)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

Mix all together, and let sit at room temperature for at least half an hour, then serve.

Tracy’s Birthday Dinner 0

Posted on January 01, 2009 by crankycheryl

Tracy came over for her birthday dinner on December 26, which is of course crazy because we were all still full to the gills from the dumplingfest the day before.

But still, it was a birthday and an impromptu reason for more good food.  I’ll also admit I was titillated by the novelty of cooking a Grown Up Meal for people unlikely to whine about turning off the television, throw unwanted vegetables on the floor, or insist on more chocolate syrup in their milk Right Now!

So I was primed to do something civilized and nice for Tracy, who is vegetarian, likes pumpkin things, and especially loves sweet treats.  And I luckily had a stocked refrigerator what with the holiday cooking.  So I was able to put together:

Pumpkin (okay, butternut squash from the freezer) Gnocchi with Spicy Arugula Pesto
Arugula Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Chocolate Lava Cakes

This was a meal that has a lot of things I love to eat and to cook.  Gnocchi is something I enjoy because it’s pretty easy to make (if you don’t fret about perfection),  it’s rustic and hearty, and it’s still special.  Making it with pumpkin or squash adds a nice sweet  flavor and also lets me delude myself that it counts as a vegetable too (as opposed to the starchy and delicious potato gnocchi).

It’s a dish that suits me well as a cook, and one that’s helped me learn that you don’t have to create perfect food in order to provide great food.   My gnocchi are largely misshapen, of dramatically different sizes, completely imperfect, and clearly show that my culinary enthusiasm carries me farther that my prep and knife skills.  There’s a life lesson in here, right?

Anyway, also, arugula is one of my favorite greens because it’s so versatile.  You can use it as a salad, an herb, or a cooked green, which makes it forgiving if you let it sit in the crisper a minute past its prime … or if you let it get a little too big in the garden.  Or if you find yourself wanting to throw together a vibrant vegetarian feast.

Now for the recipes:

Pumpkin Gnocchi:

  • 3 c. pumpkin or squash puree (canned plain pumpkin is fine – but because it’s denser use a little less)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • sprinkle/grind of black pepper
  • 2 – 2 1/2 c. flour (You may need more depending on how much liquid is in the squash/pumpkin.  I used nearly 3 cups, and wished I had thought to drain the puree with a colander and cheesecloth first, but the results were great so don’t worry about precision here.)

To finish gnocchi:

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Arugula Pesto (below)
  • 2 T. (more or less) 1/2 and 1/2 or soy milk

Prepare the gnocchi:  Mix the egg yolks and the pumpkin in a large bowl.  Add in the salt, pepper and nutmeg, then knead in enough flour so that the dough is not sticky.  It should be like your average bread dough – add more squash or flour as needed.

Divide the mixture into three sections.  Roll each section into a long cigar shape about 1/2″ in diameter.  Cut the rolls into 1/2″ pieces and either:

  1. Gently pinch around each piece’s middle, or
  2. Press with the back of a fork so that the tines create some striations in the pasta (good for catching sauces).  There’s a trick that involves some sort of flippy roll thing that allegedly results in those perfect little crescents.  I’ve never mastered it, but I don’t think my gnocchi have suffered too greatly for it.

Refrigerate on a lightly floured pan until ready to cook.  (This is where I would stop to make the pesto.)

When ready to cook, place 1 T. of butter and 1 T. olive oil in a large saute pan over low heat.   Poach gnocchi in boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes, or until they float to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon to the waiting pan.  Stir in pesto gently but thoroughly with a wooden spoon, then 1/2 & 1/2 or soy milk and stir again.  Heat through and serve.

Arugula Pesto

In blender or food processor or whatever you like to use for such things, combine and process until smooth:

  • 3 c. arugula (leaves and smaller, thinner stems only)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts (I also mixed in some spicy pumpkin seeds I had around)
  • 3 peeled cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. hot sauce (I used Sriracha:  use what you like but not something too vinegar-y like Tabasco)

We  had this with the salad (about 6 cups of greens tossed with 1/2 t. maple syrup, 1/2 t. balsamic vinegar, 1 T. olive oil, sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, tossed then sprinkled with spicy pumpkin seeds), and followed it with chocolate lava cakes, which neither Tracy nor Crankygreg had ever tried.  These are the great little individual cakes that have a pool of molten chocolate inside them, as you probably know.   (Edited:  I found the recipe of someone who I used to think was just sort of mainstream, but have now learned is not only kind of old-fashioned in her cooking but has revealed herself to also be an oblivious racist and so I’ve taken out the link.  Ew.  But you can find lots of examples of the recipe if you search.)

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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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