Saturday, May 31, 2008


It's been a topsy-turvy week, with fat cats, dogs who persist in the mistaken belief that they can fly, and opportunity lost then found.

In the face of all this chaos, I wanted something comforting to eat. So, I turned to a favorite cookbook- Jack Bishop's Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook - and a favorite recipe - polenta with kale.

Cleaned, chopped kale is boiled in olive oil and salt. The cornmeal is then slowly whisked in, so that it cooks in the kale broth. The result is a rich, creamy polenta speckled with green flecks of kale.

Not only is it a simple recipe with a short list of ingredients, but Mr. Bishop's technique for cooking polenta doesn't require the cook to stand over the stove, stirring constantly, for the entire time the polenta is simmering. This left me time to throw together his fennel and orange salad: chopped fennel and oranges, mixed with olives and mint, and tossed in olive oil.

This refreshing salad, and the comforting polenta with kale, provided a pleasant conclusion to an otherwise hectic week.

(Both recipes can be found in the cookbook.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Denver Detours: Fort Collins

Growing up in Fort Collins, the nickname "the Choice City" seemed like a horrible joke. "Cow town" felt more appropriate.

Fort Collins has changed over the years, and my perspective has as well. True, the city still has its bovine residents. (See exhibit A, above.) But, I love that the the city is combating the growth of weeds on the Cathy Fromme Prairie by arranging for sheep to graze there. Having lived in parts of the country where green space is not a part of the development plan, I appreciate the city's commitment to bike paths and open spaces. And I think it's great that, through the Beet Street program, residents and visitors can engage in discussions with top scientists in the Science Café, or dialog with cultural commentators like Barbara Ehrenreich. (Beet Street events this summer include a jazz festival and a celebration of the Peace Corps, in addition to the on-going Science Café events.)

This weekend, I traveled up to Ft. Collins, and visited a few of my favorite places downtown: Avogadro's Number, the Cupboard, and Walrus Ice Cream.

Avogadro's Number

As your high school teacher may have explained, Avogadro's Number -- 6.023 X 1023 -- represents the number of molecules in a mole of any given substance.

Scientific principles aside, Avogadro's Number is also a veg friendly restaurant in downtown Fort Collins.

The first thing visitors will notice upon entering Avo's is the macramé wall hangings and brightly colored murals. But, upon viewing the menu at the counter, you'll also be struck by the variety of veg options, from tempeh burgers to veg chili to a variety of meatless subs.

You know a restaurant is veg friendly when their web site devotes an entire page to the benefits of tempeh.

Not being a huge fan of tempeh (in spite of its many benefits...), I ordered the Grilled Tofu Sub: a tasty blend of grilled seasoned tofu, sautéed vegetables (including onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms and black olives) and melted mozzarella cheese served, with lettuce, tomato and a creamy dressing, on a sub roll.

Avo's also makes a mean berry shake, but I didn't get one on this visit because I was planning to have ice cream later in the day.

While the indoor murals and macramé wall hangings provide plenty to look at indoors, customers may also dine on the back patio, which was recently expanded.

605 South Mason Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524

The Cupboard

How a little town on the prairie wound up with a top notch kitchenware store, I'm not sure.

The Cupboard's website describes the store's origins as such:

With no prior retail experience, a “market survey” that entailed a conversation with a gas station owner in Loveland, and $5,000 from a relative, The Cupboard was opened for business in the Fall of 1972. Pioneering customers encountered a few crocks of kitchen gadgets, some pottery, baskets, and a total staff of two (although only one manned the store at a time).

These days, the Cupboard is one of the only independent kitchenware stores around. And, by "independent," I don't just mean that the store is not part of a chain. Products are not available for order on-line, there is no mail-order catalog, and the selection of goods available is slightly different each visit. More than 30 years after its opening, it seems that the Cupboard is still marching to the beat of its own drummer - err, unique business plan.

While the selection changes each visit, it is the varied selection that makes the Cupboard so interesting. Every kitchen utensil you can think of - and some you may have yet to encounter - can be found there, along with a variety cookware, cutlery, kitchen appliances, cookbooks, dishes, glasses, pottery, and gourmet coffee, tea and groceries. While chain kitchenware stores may provide comfort in the consistency of goods available at different locations, the Cupboard offers an interesting and ever changing array of products that may not be found elsewhere.

The Cupboard
152 South College Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80524

Walrus Ice Cream

Walrus Ice Cream is another Fort Collins institution. The ice cream is made in-house; flavors change day to day.

Swiss dark chocolate ice cream is shown on left, huckleberry on the right. (Both were nibbled on before the photo was snapped; I'm getting better at photographing food before digging in, but with ice cream, it was hard to resist...)

Watch out for the joke flavor (not posted on the website); Sunday's was the somewhat obvious "meat chip."

Walrus Ice Cream
125 West Mountain Ave
Fort Collins, CO 80524

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea

Nothing says "springtime in Colorado" like a warm, sunny day, followed promptly by a day of plunging temperatures and heavy snow.

Now that more than a week has passed since Denver's most recent snowfall, it's time to celebrate the arrival of summer -- and what better way to welcome summer's return than with a pitcher of hibiscus mint iced tea?

As a child, my best friend and I drank mint tea made with leaves picked fresh from her family's garden. Years later, while taking Spanish classes in Mexico, I drank sweet jamaica tea that my host mom made by boiling dried hibiscus flowers. Making an iced tea from fresh mint and dried hibiscus flowers seemed like a great way to recall both experiences. (The result is less minty than I'd expected, but refreshing nonetheless.)

Dried hibiscus flowers ("flor de jamaica") can be found in Mexican grocery stores. If you've got packaged mint and hibiscus teas on hand, instead of dried hibiscus flowers and fresh mint, you might want to try this recipe.

Hibiscus may help lower cholesterol, and is high in vitamin C.

10 cups water
1/2 cup loosely packed dried hibiscus flowers
5 sprigs mint, washed
1/4 cup agave nectar

Combine water, hibiscus flowers and mint in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
After about 30 minutes, strain the hibiscus and mint from the tea.
Pour into a pitcher.
Sweeten with 1/4 cup agave nectar (or to taste).
Serve over ice.

Grandma's Potato Salad

I'm not a big on meat substitutes, but when summer weather arrives, I want a veggie brat.* And, of course, with a veggie brat, one must have potato salad.

There are a lot of different potato salads out there, but my Grandma's recipe is my favorite. Packed with olives, hardboiled egg and celery seed (o! the celery seed!), it's almost a meal in itself.

Well, almost. Can't forget the veggie brat.

Folks who want to lighten the recipe up a bit can use soy mayo in place of the regular mayo, and use only the whites of the hardboiled eggs in the salad.


4 medium red potatoes, washed
1/3 of a 10 oz jar of green olives (with pimento)
3 hardboiled eggs, shelled and chopped
mayo (1/3 cup or less)
1 rib celery, washed and chopped
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper and paprika to taste

Boil the whole potatoes in enough water to cover the potatoes, until tender (about 20 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes). When the potatoes are easily pierced by a fork, remove from heat and cool.
Dice the cooled potatoes into 1 inch chunks, removing and discarding the skin in the process.
Place the potatoes in a large bowl.
Lightly toss the potatoes with 3 tablespoons olive juice.
Slice the olives and add them to the bowl, along with the chopped celery.
Stir in mayo till moist.
Add celery seed, salt, and black pepper to taste. Stir.
Dust with paprika.
Cover and chill.

Serves 4.

*Edited to change "braut" to "brat" after Claire of Culinary Colorado helpfully pointed out that a braut is a German bride, not a food. To provide further clarification, when I say "veggie brat," I am referring to this, not this.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Denver Detours: Colorado Springs

Progressive Denverites tend to speak of Colorado Springs in hushed tones. But, while Colorado Springs is the home of Douglas Bruce, Larry Liston and Focus on the Family, it's also the home of open-minded institutions like Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Independent, and some great veg food. On a recent visit to the Springs, I stopped by two of my favorite veg-friendly restaurants in the area: Poor Richard's and Adam's Mountain Cafe.

Poor Richard's

Poor Richard's is located in downtown Colorado Springs, on North Tejon. The namesake of local businessman and activist Richard Skorman, Poor Richard's is four establishments in one: a bookstore, a restaurant, a toy store, and a wine, chocolate and coffee bar.

Poor Richard's restaurant offers a number of veg options, including a veg reuben, veg burgers, spinach mushroom lasagna, and vegetables with tofu. However, Poor Richard's is best known for its pizza, which has a wonderfully crisp, New York style crust. (The crust is available in white, whole wheat or, for $2 more, spelt.) The slices are advertised as "giant" and they are indeed generous, covering the better part of a dinner plate.

For those who enjoy a salad with their pizza, the #1 meal deal ($8.75) includes a three topping slice along with a house salad (romaine lettuce, chickpeas, black olives, steamed green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette) and a fountain drink.

Diners may enjoy their meal in the restaurant, on the patio in front of the restaurant, or in the wine bar or bookstore.

Poor Richard's Restaurant
324 1/2 North Tejon
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Adam's Mountain Cafe

Adam's Mountain Cafe is located just west of Colorado Springs, in nearby Manitou Springs. The Cafe specializes in vegetarian entrées, although the menu is not entirely vegetarian (poultry and fish are also served). Adam's Mountain Cafe is affiliated with the Slow Food movement, and prepares its dishes fresh for each order. Service is friendly and attentive.

On a recent morning visit, I tried the potatoes with vegetarian red chili and two eggs. Sliced red potatoes were layered with a thin red chili sauce and melted white cheddar cheese, and topped with scrambled eggs and scallions. My companion had the Busboy Special: two large whole grain pancakes served with maple syrup, scrambled eggs and and an array fresh fruit (sliced strawberry, kiwi, banana, apple and pear).

In keeping with the Cafe's focus on vegetarian cuisine, the special on the morning of our visit was a vegetarian quiche containing tofu and vegetables. Sesame crusted tofu is available as a breakfast side, and the chai is served with either soy or dairy milk.

Lunch and dinner entrées include Harvest Crepes, a Tofu Melt sandwich, Orzo Mediterranean Pasta, Senegalese Vegetables, and Tibetan Vegetables (available with the sesame crusted tofu).

Adam's Mountain Cafe
934 Manitou Ave
Manitou Springs, CO 80829

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little Anita's

After a somewhat disappointing veg tamale experience at the Cherry Creek Fresh Market, I headed to the Little Anita's on South Colorado Boulevard on a tip from a vegetarian co-worker. I wanted to try Little Anita's vegetarian tamale platter, and to put my recent disappointment behind me. However, I was distracted from this purpose on my first visit, by the promise of a calabacítas stuffed sopaipilla ($5, or $6.10 with rice and beans). Filled with sautéed squash, along with mushrooms, tomatoes and corn, and smothered in cheese and a spicy green chili sauce, the stuffed sopaipilla was a flavorful and satisfying lunch. I washed the stuffed sopapilla down with a glass of cinnamon-spiked horchata. (Little Anita's also offers jamaica tea.)

With every order, Little Anita's provides a complimentary plain sopaipilla. The lightly fried pillows of dough are crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside - and perfect for drizzling with the honey provided at each table. While I'm generally one to clean my plate, I didn't even touch the rice that accompanied my meal on that first visit because I was so busy with the stuffed sopaipilla, plain sopaipilla and horchata.

This week, I headed back to Little Anita's to try their vegetarian tamale plate ($6.25). Based on my prior visit, I was certain my recent tamale woes would soon be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, this predication proved inaccurate. The masa used in the green chili and cheese tamales seemed grainy, and the tamales seemed to contain a disproportionate amount of masa. While I didn't have room for the rice on my first visit, I ate all my beans and rice, along with an horchata and a plain sopaipilla, on my second visit, while leaving an unfinished heap of veg tamale on my plate.

Although once again disappointed by the veg tamale offerings, I will be heading back to Little Anita's for more calabacítas stuffed sopaipillas and horchata, and to try the calabacítas burrito and jamaica tea.

Little Anita's
Various locations around Denver

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Veg Sushi for Everyone

You don't have to go to a restaurant to get veg sushi.

True, my homemade sushi rolls are sometimes a bit lumpy, and there's no danger that I'll be putting Sushi Den out of business anytime soon. But, the process is fun, the result is tasty, and homemade sushi doesn't require a reservation.

One of the nice things about making your own sushi rolls at home is that you can use whatever fruits and vegetables that you like. My favorite veg sushi combinations are mango-avocado and radish-avocado.

Veg sushi makes a great summer meal because, apart from the rice, there's no cooking involved.

The main sushi-rolling tricks I've learned are to roll the sushi while the rice is still hot, as the heat seems to help the nori stick together, and to make the sushi roll as tight as possible. A sushi mat helps, but it's possible to roll sushi on a cutting board instead, so long as you carefully use your hands to press the sushi tight while you are rolling it.


1 cup sushi rice, prepared per package instructions
4 strips of nori seaweed
The fruits and vegetables of your choice, chopped into thin strips (I used 1 avocado, 1 mango and 4 radishes today, and had some mango and radishes left over)
Soy sauce and wasabi

Lay the nori on your sushi mat (or cooking board), shinny side down.

Spread a thin layer of cooked rice (about 1/2 cup) over the nori, leaving the top inch of the nori uncovered.

Layer your fruit and/or vegetables in a strip running about 2 inches above the bottom of the nori.

Starting at the bottom of the sushi mat, wrap the nori over the fruit and/or vegetables, pressing firmly to make the roll as tight as possible. A helpful illustration of this process can be found at Coconut and Lime.

Continue rolling up to the top of the mat, making the roll as tight and firm as possible. Some of the filling may start to fall out while you are rolling the sushi; press it back in with your fingers.

Once you've rolled all your veg sushi, cut the rolls into 1 inch pieces with a sharp knife. Serve with soy sauce and wasabi. (Some people place a strip of wasabi inside their sushi roll. However, I've learned the hard way that you have more control over the heat if you dip your sushi in a wasabi-soy sauce mixture, rather than placing the wasabi inside the roll.)

Makes about 4 rolls, enough for 2 very filling servings.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Splendid Table: Lynne Rossetto Kasper at Room & Board

When you've grown accustomed to hearing a voice stream out of the radio week after week, it's a pleasant surprise to hear that same familiar voice coming out of the mouth of someone standing in front of you.

Denver-area Splendid Table listeners were treated to this experience on Thursday evening, when Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift visited Room & Board in North Cherry Creek to promote their new cookbook, The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper.

Perhaps because the event took place in a furniture store, Lynne Rossetto Kasper focused her remarks on the "table" aspect of the Splendid Table. Observing that one of the few times that people look each other in the eye is when they sit across the table, Ms. Rossetto Kasper talked about using seating arrangements, lighting and decor to create atmosphere and build relationships over food. After her talk, she answered questions ranging from food writing (it's improving, as a recent Pulitzer Prize to food critic Jonathan Gold demonstrates) to popular television cooking shows (she likes them because they get people thinking about cooking and food) to tips for preparing leeks (bake the cleaned leeks in broth with herbs!). In an emotional moment, Ms. Rossetto Kasper recognized former students, who attended cooking classes that she taught while living in Denver during the early 1980's, in the audience, and gave a brief account of her career path prior to the Splendid Table.

I bought How to Eat Supper prior to Ms. Rossetto Kasper's talk, thinking that it would make a good Mother's Day gift. However, after giving it a closer look, I'm really tempted to keep it for myself. Intriguing veg recipes are scattered throughout the cookbook, including:

Simple Garden-in-a-Pot Soup
Cambodian Noodle Soup with Pineapple and Tomato
Cabbage Slaw with Orange-Pumpkin Seed Dressing
Thai Cantalope Salad with Chile
Ripe Tomato Stack with Pine Nuts and Mozzarella
Supper Tart of Red Onions, Greens and Grapes
Green Apple, Cheese and Chard Oven Omelet
Warm White Bean Salad with Fragrant Garlic and Rosemary
Three Pea Toss
Carrots with Curry and Coconut Milk
Sweet Yams in Ginger Stick Curry
Almond-Turmeric Potatoes
Pasta with Chopping Board Pistachio Pesto
Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens Over Bow-Tie Pasta
Rosemary Figs with Honeyed Fresh Cheese

In a section devoted to "Vegetable Main Events," Ms. Rossetto Kasper and Ms. Swift not only provide vegetarian recipes, but also recommend other vegetarian cookbooks, share favorite quotes, and provide advice on visiting Indian grocery stores.

How to Eat Supper is packed with information, including shopping and cooking tips, suggestions for building a culinary library, recipe variations, quotes about food and cooking, and stories from the show. Menu suggestions are listed on the inside front and back covers.

While it will be difficult to give this cookbook away, the upside is that my mom will have a veg-friendly book on hand that we can cook from when I visit.

Photo courtesy of DebinDenver.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cherry Creek Fresh Market

The Cherry Creek Fresh Market is not so much a farmer's market as it is a gourmet food-oriented street fair. This weekend, there was only one table which I would consider a true farm produce stand, along with a tomato stand, an herb stand, and several flower stands. The Market was predominated by stands selling other types of food, including bread, baked goods, tortillas, tamales, dumplings, smoothies, kettle corn, spiced nuts and honey.

Perhaps because it was the only stand offering a variety of fresh produce, business at the farm stand was brisk.

I tried the vegetarian dumplings ($6) at the Sister's Pantry stand. The dumplings, which are stuffed with shredded carrots, cabbage, mushroom and celery, are lightly fried before being served in a lime-soy sauce. (While the filling does not contain any dairy, the dumplings are not vegan because they are covered in an egg white wash.) Peanut sauce is available for a dollar more. The dumplings were tasty, and quite filling.

I also had a green chili and cheese tamale ($2 each). It was much larger than the tamales I'm used to, with an excess of masa dough. Strict vegetarians might choose to steer clear of the green chili and cheese tamales, as they are steamed in the same pot as meat-filled tamales.

Another stand at the Market offered black bean and spinach tamales ($3 each). I wanted to sample them, but ran out of room after the green chili and cheese tamale and the vegetable dumplings.

Other vegetarian-friendly offerings included vegetarian crepes, made fresh at the Market, and Greek pastries. At least one participating bakery offered gluten-free goods.

While a variety of foods are available at the Cherry Creek Fresh Market, there were no agave marshmallows to be found. Only in Boulder, it seems...

The Cherry Creek Fresh Market has moved just south of its former location. While still located near the Cherry Creek Mall, the Market is now being held on North Cherry Creek Drive itself, next to the bike path. Those who drive can park in the Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot, where the Market was held in the past, or in the small lot across the creek on South Cherry Creek Drive.

Cherry Creek Fresh Market
Saturdays May 3 through October 25, 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
Wednesdays June 4 through September 24, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
North Cherry Creek Dr. & University