Archive | 2012

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup Dupes Carnivore Into Eating Root Vegetables!

Are these carrots or "orange death twigs?"

By now you know that I am perfectly comfortable tricking my carnivore husband into eating incredibly healthy vegetarian and vegan meals. How else am I going to get him to try things he’d normally declare are strictly for “tye-dye wearing bark-eaters?” You know, like foods that are really “out there,” such as carrots.  Yeah, I said carrots. Or as John likes the call them: orange twigs of death. “But they’re so good for you! They prevent cancer and heart disease, reduce the risk of stroke and they’re great for your skin,”  I say, trying to reason with him as he picks the orange flecks out of his salad while shaking his head. Well, I’ve finally figured out a way to get him to eat carrots: Curried Coconut Carrot Soup.

In this super simple little recipe, carrots are disguised in this rich, creamy soup. The beguiling, exotic flavors of garam masala curry and coconut milk are the primary flavors you taste in this delicious soup, and maybe you’ll even pick up a hint of fresh ginger. But the taste of carrots? Nope! Even though they’re the main ingredient, you wouldn’t know it since they simply provide a platform for the other flavors. But you still get the awesome health benefits of the mighty carrot, so it’s the best of both worlds! John loves this soup and if it has the power to convert a carrot-hating carnivore into adoring it, I have a feeling you’ll like it too!

By the way, I have yet to confess to John about the fact that this is a carrot soup. Whenever he asks what it is, I mumble, “Oh it’s a curried coconut cwagha blah blah mubah soup…here, have a beer!” (Note: distraction is a perfect complement to trickery).

Curried Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: about 40 minutes

3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated/microplaned
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp garam masala (or regular curry powder)
4 cups carrots, thinly sliced
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut  milk
1 1/4 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a soup pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion, ginger, green onions and garam masala until the onion is translucent. Add carrots and broth, stir well and bring to a boil. With your heat still at medium, cover the pot and cook until the carrots are soft, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and add coconut milk and lime juice. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until creamy and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add more lime juice to taste as well (but be careful – too much lime juice can make the soup a bit astringent). Enjoy!

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Giving Thanks for Hearty Autumn Wild Rice Pilaf

Every Thanksgiving, it’s the same story. I have to look into the smirky face of a friend and respond: “No, I will not be carving a Tofurkey for the holidays.” Now why would I want to gnaw on a fake bird when there are so many awesome harvest dishes with which to stuff my face?

If you’re like me, or the approximately 95,456 other frantic people who were shopping at Whole Foods alongside me today, you’d probably appreciate an easy, delicious, healthy and full-flavored side dish recipe that can feed an army while pleasing both veggies and carnivores alike.  Yes? Never fear my friends, because the Hearty Autumn Wild Rice Pilaf is here! I created this recipe a couple Thanksgivings ago and it’s become one of my favorite fall dishes since it’s got a beautiful blend of flavors: the nutty taste of wild rice, festive bits of fresh apple and dried cranberry, a hint of pomegranate balsamic vinegar to add a feisty little kick, and walnuts (or toasted pecans) to add a bit of protein. And best yet, you can make this dish the day before your big gathering to help easy your stress. (I can practically hear you now: “Cut the foodie chitchat Cimeron and gimme that recipe right now before I throw giblets at you!”)  (By the way, what the hell are giblets?)  (Never mind, I don’t think I want to know!)

Have a great Thanksgiving, my friends! 🙂

Hearty Autumn Wild Rice Pilaf

Serves: 10 as a side dish
From fridge to table: 5 minutes (plus refrigeration time if serving cold)

3 cups cooked wild rice (about 1 cup dry rice makes approximately 3 cups cooked)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup granny smith apple, finely diced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts or toasted pecans, chopped
A splash of pomegranate balsamic vinegar (I like 11 Olives’ balsamic since it’s thick, rich and has a gorgeous flavor)
A splash of rosemary olive oil (I use 11 Olives’ olive oil because it’s divine)

In a large mixing bowl, toss together all the ingredients. Add just enough rosemary olive oil to coat the rice, and add pomegranate balsamic to taste. Season with salt and pepper. You can serve it hot, chilled or at room temp – it’s fantastic no matter the temperature at which you serve it. Enjoy stuffing your face with this lovely dish!

 

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole Pleases Everyone, Even Avocado-Hating Carnivores

Throughout my childhood, my sister used to pin me down and squish guacamole through her lips and let it drool down to my nose before sucking it back up. Ughahhhkkk! That memory still makes my whole body quiver with disgust. So now you understand the basis for my lifelong hatred of avocados. But they’re so dang good for you! They’re packed with fiber, b-vitamins and 20 essential nutrients. I really, really want to like the Mighty Avocado, and since it’s such a filling and healthy food, I also want my carnivore husband to love it too. Unfortunately John doesn’t like the texture and thinks it’s just too cliche: “Is there some kind of requirement that every Californian has to love that snot?!” (Judging by the avocado consumption habits of our friends, it must be a California state law or something).  I knew this would be one of my biggest culinary mountains to climb.

After many tries with numerous recipes (and a couple of times that John rinsed his tongue under the kitchen sink) I hit on one that has *finally* turned us into avocado fans – Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole. Every time I serve it, there’s a tortilla chip traffic-jam at the guacamole bowl. It’s got such lovely and unique layers of flavor! The gorgeous ruby-colored pomegranate seeds add a beautiful brightness on your palate with a sharp little pop of unexpected flavor, while the tropical mango provides a velvety hint of sweetness. This dish is so good that it’s conquered the lifelong emotional scars left by my sister’s avocado-torture technique, and has even inspired my avocado-hating carnivore to enjoy it. So just think how much you’ll love this dish if you already like regular old guacamole! Trust me – this recipe will knock your socks off. And now is the perfect time to make it since pomegranates are in season, and grocery stores are also full of ripe mangoes.

Just whatever you do, please do not pin down your loved ones and squish guacamole through your lips to torture them…unless they really deserve it. (For the record, I never deserved it because I’ve always been a perfect angel.) 🙂

Pomegranae-Mango Guacamole

Serves: 6-8
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

4 ripe Haas avocados, pitted
1/4-1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup onion, finely chopped (I prefer white onion in this recipe, but it can work with yellow if that’s all you have in the pantry)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
The seeds from one pomegranate (which will yield about 3/4 cup). Be sure to save a few seeds for a pretty garnish
3/4 cup finely chopped mango
Tortilla chips

In a large bowl, mash the avocados and immediately mix in 1/4 cup lime juice to prevent the avocados from browning (because brown guacamole is just gross). Add the chopped onion, jalepeno, smoked sea salt (to taste) and mix well. Taste and add additional lime juice and salt as desired. Gently stir in the mango, pomegranate seeds and cilantro. Garnish with a few pomegranate seeds, serve with tortilla chips, then watch it your guacamole disappear!

Tasty Tropical Breakfast Bars (vegan and gluten-free)

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m obsessed with making breakfast bars. They’re just so dang simple and quick to make, they’re delicious, and they’re a fabulously healthy treat to have hanging around for those times when you need to a meal-on-the-go, be it around breakfast time or anytime, really. And they save you a lot of money too since they’re way less expensive than store-bought breakfast bars. Thanks to the addition of almond butter (which is one of the greatest super foods around – almonds lower bad cholesterol and they’re packed with protein and calcium), dried fruits, nuts, and crunchy granola, these bars really do deliver a nice boost of energy and nutrition, so they’re fantastic as sports bars, too. If ‘almond butter’ sounds bizarre to you, don’t worry – it’s just super finely ground toasted almonds; it has about the same smoothness and texture as peanut butter.

I decided to chef up a breakfast bar with a totally different consistency and flavor than the last energy bar recipe I posted – this one is denser, not-so-sticky, has a nice crunch, travels really well and features the delicious flavors of the tropics: pineapple, mango, ginger, coconut and cashews. Yum! In honor of my neighbor friend Jamie who is experiencing her first week of college (and her first taste of homesickness), I created this gluten-free, vegan Tasty Tropical Breakfast/Energy Bar recipe.  I know she’ll love them, especially in contrast to nasty dorm food, and I bet you will, too. According to Jamie’s mom, who taste-tested these bars for me: “Wow, these could be sold in stores!” Pretty nice endorsement! 🙂 John also loves, loves, loves these bars, so much so that he has requested that they become his breakfast staple every day of the week.

Special thanks to Rhonda for convincing me to try brown rice syrup as the sweetener and binding agent for these bars – it works like a charm and it’s really healthy, too! Hurray! Brown rice syrup is a far better sweetener than table sugar, and even honey, since it’s a complex carbohydrate and has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar. It also tastes delicious, especially in these bars, since they add a caramely hint. Give them a try – I know you’ll like them!

Tasty Tropical Breakfast/Sports Bars

Servings: 25 bars
Prep time: 25 minutes
Chill/set time: at least 3 hours

1.5 cups dried tropical fruits, finely chopped (I recommend a combination of pineapple, mango and a little bit of unsweetened coconut)
1  cup roasted unsalted cashews, chopped
4 cups granola clusters cereal (I used Trader Joe’s “Just the Clusters with ginger, almond and cashew granola”)
a handful of crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup almond butter
1/3 maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup

Heat oven to 350. Lightly spray a 9″ square baking pan with olive oil.

Blend together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then, in a saucepan over medium high heat, stir together the almond butter, maple syrup and brown rice syrup, stirring constantly. When it begins to bubble, stir it as fast as you can and when it thickens, remove from heat and dump it in the bowl with the dry ingredients. Immediately mix it thoroughly. Scoop into your prepared pan. Press it down firmly with the back of a spatula – really put your weight into it to squish it down.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges become golden. Remove from oven and once again, press it down firmly with the back of a spatula.  Refrigerate it for at least 3 hours to allow it to fully firm up before you cut it. Once ready, turn it over onto a cutting board and with a sharp knife, chop into 24 bars. Enjoy!

This is what it looks like when you pop your breakfast bar concoction out of the pan. If you press it really well, yours will come out perfectly!

Delicious Balsamic Peach-Blueberry Compote with Crispy, Sweet Tortillas Tricks the Carnivore

Have you ever seen the TV show “Chopped?” The host gives the chefs a mystery basket filled with a random assortment of oddities and they compete to see who can make the most delicious and creative dish. “Chefs, your mystery basket contains leftover pizza, pickle juice, bitter melon and an old shoe – you must use all these ingredients to create a stunning dessert.” I’m still not sure if I love the show because it’s hysterical to see the look of absolute horror on the chefs’ faces, or because they inspire me with their insane creativity. Either way, that show motivated me to create a pretty awesome “make it work” moment last night, which helped me trick my converting-carnivore husband into eating (and enjoying!) a non-dairy ice cream and a few servings of fruit – that’s a huge feat!

So my mystery basket (otherwise known as my fridge) contained: extremely stale low-fat tortillas, blueberries, pomegranate balsamic vinegar, peaches and Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream. The challenge: get John to eat fruit and fool him into thinking he was eating real ice cream (so he wouldn’t give me “the face.”)  Not an easy challenge! But I’m happy to report that the resulting concoction was spectacularly delicious and had a nice little surprise that kept my carnivore (and me) coming back for more.

In typical Cimeron fashion, this dish is super quick and easy to make. (John and I have several “I’m so hungry I’m going to start gnawing on the couch” moments each week, so I often have to cook fast and simple dishes or else risk having teeth marks on my arm).  And this dessert packs a nice punch of flavors and has some really beautiful texture combinations. There are two ‘wow’ elements in this dessert: one is the luscious balsamic peach-blueberry compote with blueberry syrup – the fruit is enhanced by a touch of balsamic vinegar, which adds just the right amount of acidity to balance out the sweetness of the dessert, and the flavor is simply addictive. The other is the crispy, cinnamon-and-sugar baked tortilla triangles, which miraculously stay super crunchy even when soaking in the blueberry sauce! That was a lucky surprise. John loved breaking up the triangles and using the pieces to scoop up the “ice cream” and fruit compote, and I just couldn’t get enough of the lovely crunchiness of it. While we were licking our plates, John turned to me and said: “You have not been Chopped! Oh, and can I have more please?”  High praise indeed.

Balsamic Peach-Blueberry Surprise
(with blueberry syrup and crispy cinnamon-and-sugar tortilla triangles)

Serves: 4
Active prep time: 6 minutes
From fridge to table: 30 minutes

3 tortillas, cut into triangles
2 large peaches, sliced
2 1/2 cups blueberries
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (note: I used a divine pomegranate balsamic from 11Olives.com and it was fantastic in this dish. But plain balsamic will work well too)
2 tbsp sugar
Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on the tortillas
Olive oil

Non-dairy ice cream (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Lay out the tortilla triangles on a baking dish. Spray with olive oil, or if you don’t have spray, lightly brush it on. Sprinkle each triangle with a little cinnamon and sugar. Bake until they are crispy and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. (Note: some may puff up while baking, which I think makes for an even prettier dessert!)

Meanwhile, slice up the peaches. Place them in a large bowl along with 1.5 cups of blueberries.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup of blueberries with the 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp sugar. While stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Cook until a nice syrup starts to form and about half of the fruit has broken down,  about 1-3 minutes or so. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the fresh peaches and blueberries and stir well. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice while it’s sitting.

Arrange a couple baked tortilla triangles on a plate and put a generous scoop of non-dairy ice cream in the middle. Top with big spoonfuls of the peach-blueberry compote and syrup. For a pretty presentation, take a baked tortilla triangle and plant it like a flag on top of the ice cream. Then watch it all disappear in an insant!

Easy Energy Bars Appease the Growling Beast

While driving to the coast to kitesurf, I heard a terrible growl in the car. John and I looked at each other in shock, and then we pointed an accusing finger at each others’ stomachs. Just then, both of our growling beasts roared – our empty stomachs were very angry at us for racing out the door without eating. “Ooo, let’s stop and get a burger,” said John. I’m really not sure why, but he usually turns to meat whenever he’s dying of hunger.  Luckily, I have an emergency stash of Clif bars in the car for such occasions – I’ve learned that snacks quell his hunger for meat. But as we choked down the chalky, overly chewy, weirdly dense bars (which disconcertingly resembles the gunk that plugs up pipes), I decided right then and there to make my own energy bars from now on. How hard could it be? Turns out it’s even easier than I thought, not to mention that homemade sports bars are way tastier, and they’re less expensive too.

Unlike store bought sports bars that often rely on tons of sugar to give you a quick energy boost (followed by a sugar crash), these homemade bars feature nuts that are packed with energy, like almonds. According to WebMD, almonds are “the new power food” since they’re so nutrient-dense. And these bars also feature dried fruit, which deliver a steady stream of natural energy. Sure, there’s a little bit of sugar in these bars to bind them together and give you immediate energy, but it’s not too much. Promise! These things last for a really long time in the fridge, they transport well, and they always deliver tons of much-needed energy when you need it the most. They’re a perfect snack for kids, they’re great to take along with you for hikes, and really good for those times when you’re so hungry that you just need to stuff something in your face immediately.

Make up a batch and have it on hand next time your growling beast demands to be fed. Trust me, these taste great and they’re way more satisfying than those expensive and nasty-tasting sports bars they sell in the stores!

Cimeron’s Easy Energy Bars

3 cups of any yummy whole grain cereal (I like using a cereal with crunchy clusters)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts *
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cups chopped dried raisins, cranberries or cherries *
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (optional)
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

*You can make these energy bars with an infinite combination of nuts and dried fruits. I like to use classic nut/fruit blends, like: a tropical twist with dried papaya, pineapple and coconut with macadamia nuts; dried cherries and blueberries with toasted hazelnuts;  raisins and walnuts; smores style with chocolate chips and marshmallow,  etc.

Heat oven to 350, and prepare an 8″ baking pan by spraying it with olive oil. In a big bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Then, in a small pot, mix the peanut butter, honey and syrup and cook over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, constantly mixing it. When it hits the boiling point, whisk it fast for about a minute until it thickens up a bit. Then remove from heat and toss it in the bowl with the dry mixture and mix it thoroughly. Pour into your prepared pan and press it down firmly with the back of a spatula. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges turn golden. Remove from oven and press it down again with the spatula. For best results, refrigerate overnight and cut up the bars in the morning – they will be firm and not crumbly at all after overnight refrigeration. They hold up really well, so take them with you to power up wherever go!

The Bonk-Preventer: Quinoa Tabbouleh

John and I have been mountain biking a ton lately, so I’ve been on the hunt for “power foods” to keep us from bonking on the trails. I’ve experimented with a bunch of different ingredients and the one I keep coming back to again and again is the magical, mighty quinoa. Packed with protein – the most of any grain on the planet – I find that it digests easily and provides us with plenty of energy to sustain us through long, grinding climbs through the spectacular redwood forests near our home.

Quinoa is out of this world, and it sort of looks like it, too. When cooked, each grain has a little ring around it and resembles a tiny Saturn. So cute! But since John thinks quinoa is only eaten by stoned, dreadlocked white guys named “OneLove YogiMoonglow,” I have to disguise the cosmic grain to get him to eat it. Lucky for me, the ever-versatile quinoa has no problem being a caped crusader.

One of my new favorite ways of preparing it is in a yummy tabbouleh. The focal point of this tabbouleh isn’t the quinoa, it’s the crunch of cucumbers, the zesty tasty of tomatoes, the cool breath of fresh mint and the tang of lemon juice. In this recipe, the quinoa easily takes the place of bulgar (which is what Middle Easterners traditionally use as the base of tabbouleh) and provides a slightly crunchy platform for the rest of the ingredients to take center stage and shine. John eats this all the time, but he has yet to discover that he’s eating quinoa. When our friends joke with him about Operation Carnivore Conversion and tease him about becoming “a quinoa-eater,” he bursts out laughing and emphatically declares: “I don’t eat it! That stuff is gross!” That always makes me snicker inside…or maybe it’s more like a devious Vincent Price-like evil laugh…but I digress…

Talk about versatile – we can eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, as a side-dish and as a snack. When we’re preparing for a long day on the trails, I break out the big spoons and we shovel down our quinoa tabbouleh. I’m happy to report that it prevents the dreaded bonk while we’re on long rides!  If you don’t know what bonking is, here is a visual representation for your amusement (John would die if he knew I was posting this, so this is our little secret. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves: 6 as a side dish, or 2-3 for a main meal
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

1 ¾ cup water
1 cup quinoa
¼ tsp salt (plus some for finishing)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil (preferably meyer lemon infused olive oil for a divine flavor – I get mine from http://www.11Olives.com and it is delicious!)
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Two Persian cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, skin on, diced
4 scallions/green onions, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup fresh flat parsley, finely chopped (really depends on your taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
salt, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, bring the quinoa, water and ¼ tsp salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until water is fully absorbed by quinoa, about 10 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes then fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking, chop all the other ingredients and squeeze the lemon juice. Once quinoa is done, transfer to a big bowl and toss with all the other ingredients. Start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add more to taste. Finish with a little bit of salt. Then go out and burn some energy!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita: a Refreshing, Easy Dessert

Ah, pomegranates: the fruit of my people! Whenever I see them, I think of my sweet Persian mother and how we used to sit together and seed pomegranates for hours while laughing about the fact that we always put more pomegranate seeds in our mouths than in the bowl. The tiny ruby fruit-gems burst with juicy flavor and are simply luscious and divine! And it’s incredibly good for you, too – several scientific studies have found a surprising array of the health benefits of pomegranate juice, including its ability to: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fight breast cancer, prevent cartilage deterioration (aka osteoarthritis), prevent lung cancer, slow prostate cancer, and even prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. No wonder it’s consider a super-food!

I can’t wait for the fall harvest of my favorite fruit, so I decided to create a super easy and truly delicious dessert that pays homage to my Persian mum…and also to my taste buds: Pomegranate-Lime Granita. The lime perfectly pairs with the pomegranate to give it a slightly citrus hint to tantalize your palate. This recipe also has a secret mission: to get my husband to consume more pomegranate juice. John loves this granita so much that he eats tons of it, which makes me happy since he’s getting plenty of pomegranate power in his dessert.

If you’ve never had a granita, it’s a light and refreshing frozen dessert. The texture is kind of between Italian ice and sorbet. I make mine fluffy since I like the crunch of fruity, icy crystals, but it’s just as easy – okay, it’s actually easier – to make it smoother. And bonus: this dessert is crazy-easy to make. Active time is less than 3 minutes. Who knew that creating a tasty and super healthy dessert could be so simple and quick? Try it let me know what you think!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita

Serves: 8
Active time: 2 minutes
Freezing time: depends on the temp of your freezer. For me, I like to give it at least 7 hours, but I prefer to let it set overnight

3 cups pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar
The juice of one lime (I like to use Persian limes, aka Bears limes, since they’re super juicy. And well, they’re also the fruit of my people!)

In a Tupperware bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze. If you want your granita fluffy and more crystallized (like I have in the photo), mix it with a fork every hour or so while it’s setting, breaking up the frozen chunks. If you want it more firm or you’re just lazy (warning, you’d better have a sharp fork and a strong arm – it’s going to be quite hard), just let it set in the freezer and when it’s done, scrape it with a fork. On hot summer nights, I like to freeze my serving bowls so it keeps the granita nice and cold while we’re eating it.

As my mum used to say, nush-y-jan (which I think is either Persian for ‘bon appetite’ or possibly ‘gimme more pomegranates.’) 🙂

Take Me Away, Chipotle-Sage Sweet Potato Fries!

On rare occasions, I run across a really incredible ingredient that transports me to a land far, far away where my troubles, stress and worries cease to exist.  Thanks to my assortment of truly inspired infused olive oils and boldly flavored vinegars from 11 Olives that arrived today – and the subsequent tasting orgy that unfolded in my kitchen – I joyfully floated to a magical fantasy kingdom where rivers flowed with a heavenly mango balsamic, dragonflies rested on puffy sherbet-colored clouds of blood orange olive oil, and lacy yellow flowers glistened with oh-so-delicate and fragrant white lemon balsamic vinegar. Heaven on earth! It was so divine that I had to invite my neighbor friends to come over and share the joy of this amazing tasting. They laughed at my giddy excitement over the phone, but when Martha and her daughter Kelsey arrived, they were soon exclaiming “OH MY GOD!!” and “you have to try this one – it’s insane and I’ve never tasted anything like it!” while their eyes bulged and their mouths filled with the divine flavors of these amazing oils and vinegars. I had 14 in all to taste. I know, I know, I have absolutely no self control. But after talking with the owner and maker of the artisinal barrel-aged balsamics and infused olive oils, and hearing his passion for food and the beautiful flavors he’s concocted, I couldn’t help myself. My only regret is that I didn’t buy more flavors! (Check out their menu at http://www.11Olives.com. To purchase, contact the owner, Rick – he’s super cool and a very nice uber-foody – at info@11olives.com or call 206-290-4856.)

I can’t decide my favorite combos yet – California lime olive oil with pomegranate vinegar, or mango vinegar with chipotle oil are the current frontrunners – so I’m sure you’ll be seeing lots of cool recipes from me in the weeks to come! Kelsey came up with the first killer recipe, which I cheffed up tonight. It is delectable: sweet potato fries dressed with chipotle olive oil and fresh sage. The smoky chipotle flavor pairs beautifully with the rich, creamy tasty of sweet potatoes, the sage adds a unique and interesting depth and then there’s the slight kick of heat to finish it off. Oh my…when you try this, it may just sweep you away to that magical land of wondrous flavors and pure happiness. So don’t be surprised if you hear yourself saying: Take me away, chipotle-sage sweet potato fries!

Chipotle-Sage Sweet Potato Fries

Serves: 6
From fridge to table: 22 minutes

1 – 15 oz bag of frozen julienne cut sweet potato fries
15 large, fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tbsp chipotle olive oil from 11 Olives

Heat oven to 425. Place fries in a large bowl and toss well with sage and oil. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes (or until crispy and golden), tossing a couple of times while baking to ensure even browning and crisping. Serve plain – the flavor is so insanely good that you don’t need any dipping sauce at all. Enjoy!

Thanks for the inspiration, Kelsey, and also 11 Olives!

Off-The-Vine Tomato Soup

Hello. My name is Cimeron and I’m a tomato addict. I ignored all the warning signs, like when I planted 18 tomatoes in my garden last spring. I convinced myself that it was normal and declared it would be a fun challenge to make use of all the tomatoes once harvest time rolled around. Little did I know that I’d have pounds and pounds and POUNDS of tasty, delectable tomatoes. John and I are utterly drunk on tomatoes! Perhaps it’s wrong to be addicted to garden-fresh tomatoes, but it tastes so right!

Even if it’s not raining tomatoes in your yard, you can still head to the farmer’s market and pick up some delicious tomatoes that are bursting with summer-fresh flavor. While my favorite way to eat them is raw so we can taste all their tangy, sweet, juicy goodness, this vibrant soup also highlights the bright, fresh flavor of ripe tomatoes. It’s so good that John always asks for seconds, and our friends request it frequently. There are some interesting secret ingredients that help the tomato flavor pop even more: ginger, orange zest and a hint of clove. Trust me on this: this is a mouth-wateringly good soup.

So get out to your garden and pick some fresh tomatoes, or pick up some vine-ripened flavor-bombs at your farmer’s market and prepare to feel your taste buds dance for joy!

Cimeron’s Off-the-Vine Tomato Soup

Serves: 4-6 as a meal, or 8 as a starter
From vine to table: about 30 minutes

3 tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
18 mid-sized tomatoes (between golf ball and baseball size) or 13 big suckers, chopped up
2 tbsp grated ginger (fresh ginger, peeled)
3.5 tbsp grated orange peel
A pinch of ground cloves
A big handful of fresh basil, chopped very finely
A handful of croutons

In a big pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions until they’re see-through, which takes about 8 minutes or so. Add the orange peel, ginger and cloves, stirring/cooking for 2 minutes to release the fragrance and flavor of the additions. Then reduce heat to medium, toss in the tomatoes and cook – uncovered – until the tomatoes have broken down, which can take about 15-20 minutes. Be sure to stir them every now and then so they don’t stick to the bottom and burn. Turn off the heat and then with a stick blender, puree the soup. You could also use a blender or food processor, but since I hate to clean, I like to just put the stick blender right in the pot and go to town on it.  Season the soup with salt (preferably smoked sea salt if you have it) and pepper.  Serve the soup hot with some fresh basil on top and a couple of croutons. Enjoy!