Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Al fresco at last

Last evening we launched the season of outdoor dining with two new friends (Chris and Sylvia), some lovely wine, and a kind of Moroccan lasagna I made using fresh sheets of spinach pasta from The Pasta Shop. In the last week, roses and wisteria have burst into bloom in the garden, nourished by a long season of rain and finally coaxed into blossoming by several consecutive days of sun. Glorious!

In case you're wondering what Moroccan lasagna might be, it's something I concocted on a whim. For some reason, I didn't want to go the traditional Italian route with my seasoning, so I used both sweet and smoked paprikas, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon in the mix. Instead of using the usual mozzarella and ricotta, I blended part-skim ricotta with some crumbled feta cheese. The sauteed vegetable filling (eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper -- in celebration of the sun) was a beautiful golden color.

The finished dish had a rich and pungent quality, with an unexpected, exotic layer of flavor. I went easy on the cayenne, even though Moroccan food can be quite fiery, because I wasn't sure of our guests' preferences. Turns out they have traveled extensively in Mexico and adore hot food. No matter; the milder version was perfectly delicious.

On the side: 1) steamed artichokes with a yogurt/pesto/paprika dipping sauce and 2) a romaine and red cabbage salad with balsamic cumin vinaigrette.

There were oohs and aahs all around, then silence for a while as we all dug in. Soon and conversation resumed and we had a perfectly lovely evening swapping travel stories and getting better acquainted. After dinner, the super-spouse pulled out his guitar and was joined in strumming and singing by Chris. We women chimed in occasionally to sing backup. Big fun.

Here's a simple recipe for the sauce I invented, which would be great on pasta, pizza, eggs, or as the base of a scrumptious tomato soup.
1) Empty 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes (with juice) into a blender
2) Add 1/2 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes
3) Add 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon dried red chile flakes.
4) Puree and taste. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
5) Heat in a saute pan and use as desired.


At 7:47 PM, Anonymous tanna said...

That looks wonderfully different! It's so incredible but my wisteria bloomed over 5 weeks ago! Different parts of the country. Gives new meaning to different.

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Geraldine said...

Hi from Canada, Found my way here via Nava's blog. This recipe looks terrific and love your blog. We are quite a ways from eating outdoors, here on the Canadian Prairies lol, but enjoy reading about warmer weather elsewhere. Hope you will stop by for a visit soon. BFN, :)

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Mindy T. said...

Hi Tanna. Our wisteria had also been putting out flowers for a few weeks, but last week it seemed to come on strong. Maybe just because I was outdoors more to appreciate it! Anyway, we are now fully in the grips of a lush California spring and I'm going to put tomatoes in the ground within a day or two...

And hi Geraldine. Glad you stopped by. I know I'm spoiled by California weather and a long growing and blooming season. Counting my blessings here...

I'll be stopping by both your blogs very soon. Thanks for visiting mine!


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