Spike and I do not eat a lot of pasta. It’s just one more food group that can contribute to expanding waistlines. But we found real pleasure in sampling the vegetarian fare in this cookbook. The Linguini with Spring Vegetables and Orange-Saffron Butter was our favorite followed by the Chinese Noodle Salad and Chinese Noodles with Green Curry. The latter was visually stunning on our large Mexican serving platter.

chanterelle mushroomsI’d never met a chanterelle mushroom before starting the Fields of Greens cooking challenge. Whole Foods obliged in making our acquaintance. Turns out these little darlings are a bit peculiar looking and somewhat spendy. They’re also “delicate” in that bits of dirt must be removed with a brush or damp cloth. (If washed, they soak up the water and lose their flavor.) Bless their hearts, they sacrificed their lives for the Linguine with Chanterelles and Leeks.

Cannelloni and lasagna preparation proved to be familiar territory. While I’ve been making those dishes for years, I reaped the benefit of an introduction to fresh pasta sheets. They provide a more subtle pasta flavor and are much easier with which to work than dried noodles. Raviolis represented a new frontier and proved far less difficult than I’d feared. Nonetheless, I could use a bit of practice to master the technique.

The “home runs” for this collection of recipes were the risottos. While I’d never made risotto, the cooking instructions yielded perfect dishes every time. Keys to success included use of fresh tomatoes in the Tomato-Mushroom Stock and serving the meal immediately after the Arborio rice finished cooking.

Pasta

fettuccine
Fettuccine with Tomatoes, Fennel, Olives, and Walnuts
linguini with spring vegetables
Linguine with Spring Vegetables and Orange-Saffron Butter
linguini
Linguini with Mushrooms, Red Onion, Capers, and Olives
pasta and white bean stew
Pasta and White Bean Stew with Summer Vegetables
spinach fettuccine with artichokes
Spinach Fettuccine with Artichokes, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Capers
fettucine with broccoli, roasted peppers, and olives
Fettucine with Broccoli, Roasted Peppers, and Olives
spinach fettuccine
Spinach Fettuccine with Tomatoes, Crème Fraîche, and Basil
buckwheat noodle dish
Buckwheat Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy, Ginger, and Scallions
fettuccini with swiss chard
Fettuccine with Swiss Chard , Currants, Walnuts, and Brown Butter
linguini
Linguini with Onion Confit, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts
linguine with chanterelles and leeks
Linguine with Chanterelles and Leeks
fettuccine with spring vegetables
Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables, Lemon, and Chives
mushroom, spinach, sun-dried tomato pasta
Spinach Fettuccine with Shiitake Mushrooms, Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
pasta with roasted tomatoes, summer-squash, and basil
Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Golden Zucchini, and Basil
penne wiith marinated tomatoes
Penne with Marinated Tomatoes and Basil
Chinese Noodle Salad with Citrus and Spicy Peanuts
Chinese Noodle Salad with Citrus and Spicy Peanuts
chinese noodles with green curry
Chinese Noodles with Green Curry

Cannelloni, Ravioli, and Lasagne

spinach canneloni
Canneloni with Spinach, Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Roasted-Garlic Tomato Sauce
fennel mushroom canneloni
Canneloni with Mushrooms and Fennel
eggplant ravioli
Ravioli filled with Eggplant, Roasted Garlic, and Romano Cheese
eggplant lasagna serving
Eggplant Lasagna with Basil
artichoke-leek lasagna
Artichoke-Leek Lasagna
mushroom lasagna
Lasagna with Mushroom-Port Sauce

Risotto

spring risotto
Spring Risotto with Asparagus and Peas
beans, tomatoes, and peppers risotto
Risotto with Beans, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Basil
fall risotto with chanterelles and late harvest tomatoes
Fall Risotto with Chanterelles and Late Harvest Tomatoes
mushroom fennel risotto
Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Fennel
artichoke tomato spinach risotto
Risotto with Artichokes, Tomatoes, Spinach, and Thyme

I made the Potato, Fennel, and Leek Gratin years ago when we were invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Scalloped potatoes, fennel, and leeks are adorned with spices, Niçoise olives, a creamy white sauce, and two kinds of cheese before baked to perfection. It’s a rich dish that rises to the occasion of holiday excess!

The polenta gratins provided an interesting presentation while also delighting our taste buds. The Salsa Roja is quite tasty when using fresh tomatoes from our Farmer’s Market. I’ll use these recipes as the basis on which I’ll experiment in the future.

eggplant gratin
Gratin of Eggplant, Roasted Peppers, and Garlic
corn polenta gratin
Polenta Baked with Tomatoes, Corn, and Basil
artichoke polenta gratin
Polenta Baked with Artichokes, Tomatoes, and Olives
Potato Gratin with Artichokes and Smoked Cheese
Potato Gratin with Artichokes and Smoked Cheese
potato fennel leek gratin
Potato, Fennel, and Leek Gratin
polenta gratin with salsa roja
Polenta Gratin with Salsa Roja

After careful research, we purchased our new Weber kettle grill to serve as the vehicle through which we experimented with grilling vegetables and breads. We LOVED grilling fresh corn and smothering it with a reduced balsamic vinegar dressing. Veggie kabobs, eggplant steaks, and marinated tofu also captured our imagination.

We’re still getting the hang of good-old-fashioned charcoal grilling and will work to perfect our skills over time.

grilled mushrooms
Grilled Mushrooms
grilled eggplant
Grilled Eggplant with Spicy Peanut Sauce
sliced fennel
Sliced Fennel
corn, sweet potato, and sauce
Grilled Corn and Sweet Potato with Basil Aïoli Sauce
leeks
Leeks with Port Beurre Sauce
green garlic, scallions, and summer squash
Grilled Summer Squash, Green Garlic, and Scallions
grilled endive and radicchio
Grilled Endive and Radicchio
delicata squash
Delicata Squash
grilled tofu
Grilled Tofu with Sweet Ginger Marinade
grilled bread and polenta
Grilled Bread and Polenta

The Wilted Spinach with Lemon and Pine Nuts comes together quickly and provides a palate-pleasing way to ingest one of nature’s super foods. Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts and Maple Butter may actually pave the way for this vegetable to appear more often on the menu. We were also particularly fond of the Balsamic Roasted Red Onions.

As for the beans and grains, we gave our “thumbs up” to the Warm Black Beans with Chilies and Cilantro and the Pinto Beans with New Mexican Chilies. Though not generally tofu fans, we enjoyed grilling Tofu with Sweet Ginger Marinade.

Vegetables

roasted potatoes with garlic and fresh herbs
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Fresh Herbs
potatoes and mushrooms baked in parchment
Potatoes and Mushrooms Baked in Parchment
winter greens
Winter Greens with Currants, Pine Nuts, and Brown Butter
apples, fennel and greens
Sautéed Apples, Fennel, and Radicchio with Calvados
wilted spinach with lemon and pine nuts
Wilted Spinach with Lemon and Pine Nuts
beans and tomatoes
Sautéed Summer Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
roasted tomatoes
Roasted Tomatoes
brussel sprouts
Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts with Maple Butter
roasted shallots
Roasted Shallots
roasted red onions
Balsamic Roasted Red Onions
stuffed squash
Baked Squash filled with Wild Rice, Golden Raisins, and Pine Nuts
stuffed eggplant
Eggplant Filled with Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts
stuffed zucchini
Zucchini Filled with Corn, Chilis, and Smoked Cheese
stuffed roasted peppers
Roasted Peppers Filled with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Basil

Beans and Grains

warm beans with sage
Warm Beans with Sage
warm black beans
Warm Black Beans with Chilis and Cilantro
pinto beans
Pinto Beans with New Mexican Chilis
sweet pepper rice
Sweet Pepper Rice
basmati and wild rice pilaf
Basmati and Wild Rice Pilaf
almond-currant couscous
Almond-Current Couscous

Sauces provide wonderful accents to many of the recipes included in this cookbook. While I captured photos of some of them individually, most were simply incorporated into other dishes – e.g., Basil Aioli Sauce, Port Beurre Sauce, and Spicy Peanut Sauce.

artichoke with lemon beurre blanc sauce
Artichoke with Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce
roasted shallot sauce
Roasted Shallot Sauce
tomatillo salsa
Tomatillo Salsa
salsa fresca
Salsa Fresca
pesto
Pesto
cilantro pesto
Cilantro Pesto
honey miso sauce
Honey Miso Sauce

These selections provided bursts of flavor to accompany other dishes in this cookbook. The Apricot, Pineapple, and Mango-Papaya Chutneys served as accents to my favorite curry dishes. The Sweet and Sour Pearl Onions and Pickled Red Onions perked up a couple of guest meals. The Cranberry-Pear Relish may become a staple of our Thanksgiving feasts. And we loved using Fire-Dried Pecans as a salad condiment.

mandarin orange chutney
Mandarin Orange Chutney
cucumbers with yogurt and mint
Cucumbers with Yogurt and Mint
lemongrass cucumbers
Lemongrass Cucumbers
lemongrass vinegar
Lemongrass Vinegar
sweet and sour pearl onions
Sweet and Sour Pearl Onions
pickled red onions
Pickled Red Onions
cranberry-pear relish
Cranberry-Pear Relish
fire-dried pecans
Fire-Dried Pecans

Note: We used Spicy Peanuts as a topping for the Chinese Noodle Salad.

If you love chocolate, the Gâteau Moule (a.k.a., Steamed Chocolate Cake) will not disappoint. It’s delicate and moist and, therefore, a bit fragile when apportioning individual slices. No one will complain! The Ginger Pound Cake is also delicious – not too heavy, not too sweet.

I made the Cranberry Lattice Tart for my mother’s birthday. My older brother declared it to be among the top 3 fruit pies that he’d eaten in his lifetime. Considering the place of honor that my family accords fruit pies, it was high praise indeed!

The Praline Cookies were a bit of an adventure. I made the Praline from scratch, following Annie Somerville’s expert instructions. It came out as expected, although it was a bit of a mess when chopping into bite-sized pieces. However, the praline blended nicely with the shortbread dough, and the cookies were a bit hit with my ISing Choir compatriots.

I very nearly skipped making the Meyer Lemon Ice Cream and Mandarin Orange Sorbet for want of an ice cream maker. A friend came to the rescue with a loan of her easy-to-use Cuisinart appliance. Both recipes were so delicious that my mouth still waters at their memory.

The Honey Mouse deserves the final mention. The sweet richness of the mouse pairs nicely with fresh berries. Great honey is the secret to success. I purchased mine from my favorite beekeeper at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market. It’s well worth the added expense and, of course, supports a valued local business.

Having extolled the virutes of the recipes for which we had success, it’s only fair that I mention a “growth opportunity.” The Ginger Pots de Crème came out somewhat watery although was still tasty. The Lemon Pots De Crème exploded in the baking dish. It was still reasonably tasty but proved a little embarassing at the “big reveal” with our dinner companions.

applesauce
Applesauce
ginger pound cake
Ginger Pound Cake
persimmon pudding
Persimmon Pudding
steamed chocolate cake
Gâteau Moule – Steamed Chocolate Cake
honey mousse with berries
Raspberries and Blueberries with Honey Mousse
lemon pots de creme
Lemon Pots de Crème
ginger pots de creme
Ginger Pots de Crème
apricot cherry crisp
Apricot-Cherry Crisp with Crème Anglaise Sauce
apple-rhubarb crisp
Apple-Rhubarb Crisp
peach blueberry pie
Peach-Blueberry Pie
cranberry lattice tart
Cranberry Lattice Tart
strawberry cobbler
Strawberry Cobbler
gingerbread with poached cranberries
Gingerbread with Poached Cranberries
baked apple
Baked Apple Filled with Walnuts and Currants
raspberry sauce
Raspberry Sauce
praline
Praline
praline cookies
Praline Cookies
biscotti
Chocolate-Almond Biscotti
meyer lemon ice cream
Meyer Lemon Ice Cream
mandarin orange sorbet
Mandarin Orange Sorbet
candied citrus peel
Candied Citrus Peel

Note: Poached Apricots are featured as a topping for the Corn Cakes.

Spike and I crossed the finish line on the Fields of Greens cooking quest on July 2, 2016, 10 months and 2 days after we began. It was a great experience for both of us. Here are a few values that emerged on the journey.

The Value of Commitment. When making the decision to be “all in” with the quest, it pretty much eliminated the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I conversation about preparing the recipes. I just figured out a way to do it and discovered culinary territory that I simply would not have explored otherwise.

The Value of Encouragement. I hit one noteworthy low point when I nearly lowered my standards for completion. The sticking point was our lack of an ice cream maker and my resistance to buying one. So I thought I’d skip the affected recipes along with a handful of others while I was at it. Hats off to my friend Rebecca for cheering me on AND letting us borrow her ice cream maker. For the record: The Meyer Lemon Ice Cream and Mandarin Orange Sorbet were unreal! Not to be missed!

bryan, julius, and amandaThe Value of Sharing. We realized early on that the quest would go slowly if we had to eat all of the food that we prepared. So we started inviting people to dine with us given fair warning that they’d be noshing on food we’d never made. Suffice it to say, the fellowship was even better than the food… and the food was really good!

The Value of “Oh Well.” We had a few mishaps in the kitchen, and we sampled a few recipes that didn’t send us over the moon. Oh well! No big deal! I have confidence in my ability to improve on my technique and the discernment to know when it’s not worth the effort.

DadA week ago today, I was at my father’s bedside when he took his final breath. His health had been fragile for years, and he experienced chronic pain over the past few months. Through it all, he was a pillar of strength in adversity and made the best of his challenging circumstances. He always managed a smile whenever anyone came to visit and never lost his sense of humor. He was a good man, a devoted husband, and a wonderful father.

I’ve found solace over the past week in the simple act of food preparation. As I’ve alternated between waves of grief and an empty, lost feeling, it has been therapeutic to continue working on my Fields of Greens quest.

Vegetarian cuisine was not my father’s favorite. He’d have eaten it if presented with no other options, but he’d prefer a good old fashioned meat-and-potatoes meal. In fact, whenever I talked about experimenting with vegetarian recipes, he’d feel sorry for my husband. Perhaps as he watches over me from heaven, Dad will catch some of the fine aromas that emanate from my kitchen and wish he had a seat at my table. If only wishing could make it so…

When I started this quest last September, I gave myself permission to make “a reasonable approximation” in lieu of a precise rendition of all of the recipes. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get all of the ingredients locally or be willing to pay a King’s ransom for them. I wasn’t sure that I’d have the time to prepare everything from scratch. And as I don’t like to waste food, I’d allow myself use of reasonable substitutes if it made sense to do so. For example, I wouldn’t buy three types of lettuce for a salad if Spike and I wouldn’t have the time or inclination to eat all the excess.

Fortunately, I’ve yet to find an instance where I couldn’t get an ingredient at a local grocer. Admittedly, some are pretty spendy, especially when purchased off season. But for the most part, I’m able to remain faithful to the recipes as written. And when I’ve intentionally veered off course, the world didn’t come to an end.

spinach canneloniThis week’s “aha” moment in freshness surrounded pasta sheets. I’d never cooked with fresh pasta before; I’ve always opted for the standard dried stuff. But there was a big difference in taste between this week’s cannelloni made with pasta sheets and the one I prepared a couple of months ago using dried manicotti shells. Pasta sheets hold the stuffing together without being overbearing in the taste department. The resulting dish had a far more nuanced flavor. So, I guess I’m a convert to fresh pasta sheets now. Just need to keep an eye out for them as they aren’t available at every grocer.