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Pasta with parsley and other veggie delights

It’s not easy writing a food column for The Union. Aside from the writer’s block I feel every time a column is due, I have to contend with receiving irate e-mails when I use “non-veggie” ingredients like fish or white sugar.

And then there’s “potluck” anxiety. When I approach such a table with my dish, guests cluster around me. Their eagerness to taste the dish of a food columnist unnerves me.



With this kind of pressure, I’m not surprised that my most recent offerings have been total flops. Last week my chocolate shortbread cookies stuck to the pan and had to be chiseled out with a screwdriver.

This week my winter veggie melange developed a shiny gray patina that made it unsuitable for public display.




I’m burned out on potlucks right now, so my husband, Jeff, agreed to make his specialty for upcoming parties. People always assume that I’ve made the sushi, so I graciously accept all compliments intended for him.

Another difficulty is shopping for groceries. I’m stopped in the produce section by total strangers who ask what I’m making for dinner that night. They quiz me about cardamom, cumin, and convection oven temperatures for tofu.

There’s much I don’t know about cooking, but I do know that I enjoyed creating the following recipes.

(Serves 4)

Here’s what to do when parsley’s the only crop in the garden.

1 packed cup fresh parsley leaves

4 garlic cloves

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1 6-ounce can black olives, chopped

2 tablespoons capers

Salt and pepper

3⁄4 pound uncooked fettuccini

1 teaspoon olive oil

Puree the parsley, garlic, and 1⁄4 cup oil. Don’t fret if it doesn’t get really smooth. Stir in the olives and capers by hand. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook the fettuccini until al dente. When it’s done, drain and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add the sauce and serve immediately.

(A romantic salad for 2)

I buy unusual food when it’s on sale. That’s how I ended up with a can of hearts of palm.

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

1⁄4 teaspoon white sugar

1⁄8 teaspoon olive oil (guesstimate this one)

2 modest handfuls mixed organic salad greens

2 scallions, cut in Os

1 avocado, cubed

7 ounces hearts of palm, sliced in Os

Dressing

Mix:

1⁄2 tablespoon lime juice

1⁄2 tablespoon orange juice

1⁄2 tablespoon olive oil

1⁄2 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

Toss the pecans with the sugar and oil and roast in a dry pan until slightly golden. Mix with the remaining ingredients and stir in the dressing. Appreciative sighs may accompany this salad.

(Serves 4)

Slurp this savory soup while you wait for spring.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups cubed potatoes

2 cups veggie broth

2 garlic cloves, pressed

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 cups frozen corn

11⁄2 cups evaporated milk

1⁄2 cup chopped roasted red peppers

1 packed tablespoon minced cilantro

Salt and pepper

Saute the onions and potatoes in the oil for 10 minutes. Add the broth, garlic, celery and corn. Simmer until the potatoes are just tender. Puree 11⁄2 cups of the mixture and return it to the soup.

Stir in the milk, red pepper, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat gently and serve.

(4-6 Servings)

Last year my garden luxuriated in green beans. Here’s what happened when I discovered another pound.

1 pound green beans

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

1⁄2 cup chopped roasted red peppers

4 scallions, sliced in Os

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Salt

Dressing

Whisk together:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 teaspoons rice vinegar

4 teaspoons tamari

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Pinch of cayenne

Toss the beans with the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and garlic and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees until just tender. Toss with the dressing and refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, stir in the tomatoes, peppers, scallions, sesame seeds and salt. Envision the green bean crop you’ll harvest this summer.

(4 servings)

Don’t wait until summer to make fruit salad. This recipe uses fruits that are available all year.

1 medium Fuji apple, cut in bite-size pieces.

1 large orange, sectioned and halved

1 banana, sliced

1⁄4 cup pineapple chunks

1⁄8 cup raisins

1⁄2 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut

Dressing

Mix together:

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1⁄2 tablespoon honey

Toss the ingredients with the dressing. To chill or not to chill? The decision depends on your inner thermometer.

I finished another column! Maybe I’ll also have the courage to cook for this weekend’s potluck.

Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer and vegetarian chef. She can be reached at vjpaul@sbcglobal.net


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