Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad

(posted by Kim)

It’s not that we were ever a big meat-eating family, but when I was growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, our fare was pretty typical: meatloaf, pot roast and pepperoni on pizza along with our Chicken Cacciatore and barbecued salmon. At one point my dad jumped on the bran muffin and alfalfa-sprouts-in-whole-wheat-sandwiches bandwagon, and sometime during high school, my sister decided to cut beef and pork out of her diet. But we were never extremists, by any means.

Jump ahead to 2011 and a health scare with my mom. I won’t go into the details of what has become a regular topic of family discussion, especially the endless conversations about the documentary Forks Over Knives. Suffice it to say, more often than not these days, as a family we are vegans. Not partial vegans, allowing butter and cheese to ooze in, but wholehearted herbivores.

When I say “as a family,” that’s because I don’t want anyone to think we’re not eating any cheese or chicken or even meat on occasion. We are just trying as best we can to create full menus of vegan dishes so that when we’re eating with my mom at the table, we can all share the same culinary pleasures.

This has resulted in a great deal of creativity with tofu and vegetables, and for me, forays into the world of grains. I’m love with all of the grain salads showing up in magazines and blogs these days. I’ve become addicted to farro, and last week I tried a black barley salad with citrus and radishes. I wasn’t hot on the recipe, but the black barley was nutty and chewy, and I plan to find a way to use it in something else.

As for the recipe I’m posting here, I’ve made it a few times – adjusting ingredients and measurements from the original in Bon Appetit – until finding just the right balance of flavors. It’s ideal for light lunch main dish or dinner side.

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad
adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6-8


·         3 Tbsp olive oil
·         2 medium fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise into 1/4"-thick slices
·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
·         Juice from 2 small lemons, plus pulp
·         2 teaspoons ground cumin
·         1-½ cups quinoa, rinsed
·         4 cups vegetable broth
·         1/2 Serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped
·         1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
·         1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
·         1/2 cup pomegranate seeds


1.      Preheat oven to 425. Toss fennel in a bowl with olive oil. Lay out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until fennel is caramelized and crispy.

2.      In the meantime, bring quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook. You want the quinoa to have a little resistance. Drain and return to pan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

3.      Mix lemon juice with pulp and cumin into the quinoa. Add chili and herbs. Add fennel, scraping the juices into the bowl.

4.      Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature or cold.

(photo by Julie Fay Ashborn)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Zucchini & Tomato Salsa (or Attack of the Garden Tomatoes)

(posted by Jules)

About three months ago my husband got it in his head to terrace an unused portion of our yard for a garden. Now, when he gets a project in his mind, he goes for it full steam. He planted zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, arugula, Mesclun, sweet potatoes, green peppers and green onions. Either he has the greenest thumb around or our soil is naturally rich in nutrients … with the third possible option being that we have built our garden on a nuclear waste site!

About a month or so ago, the arugula came in – we ate it every day and I brought bags and bags of it to my co-workers but we still couldn’t keep up and it went to seed. This was followed by the zucchini and yellow squash, which I again shared with my co-workers, not to mention grilled it, caramelized it, made zucchini lasagna, zucchini cookies, etc. At one point my husband brought up a two-foot-long zucchini that he had somehow missed until it grew to a supernatural size. How you miss a zucchini that big, I will never know.

But then came the heirloom tomatoes – what I had been waiting for. At first they trickled in: one Beef Steak, two Red Zebras, a couple Purple Cherokees and couple Lemon ones. That was until this past Friday when he came up from the garden with an enormous bag full (along with more zucchini and yellow squash, of course).  

The bounty
The thing about our tomatoes is that they are so fresh and so vine-ripened that you have to use them fairly quickly, so this is what spawned “The Great Ashborn Tomato Fest.”  The only sad part of this story is that my husband was out of town for part of the weekend and did not get to partake in some of the bounty. Fortunately my sister and our friend Vickie stepped up and volunteered. 

I started with a fresh tomato soup from Jamie’s Great Britain. I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and as always, his recipe did not let me down. It is an incredibly simple recipe – no extensive chopping, no straining of soup. You basically throw all the ingredients in a liquefier (or my Oster blender) and liquefy it in batches, simmer it a bit, add some white wine vinegar and a touch of cream and voila! I served it with parmesan toast, a simple saffron lemon couscous with garlic shrimp and, of course, caramelized zucchini.

Weighing the tomatoes

                       Jamie's soup                             
I managed to use two kilograms (about 4½ pounds) of tomatoes for the soup (and even sent some home with Vickie) but my tomato bowl still runneth over. So on Saturday it was slow-roasted tomatoes (eight hours in the oven), a big Caprese salad and beef steak tomatoes on Vickie’s super delicious Turkey Burgers (hopefully we can get her to share her recipe here soon). Yep, that’s right, she came back for round two. 

Prepping for the slow roasting

Vickie's turkey burgers
By Saturday night my husband was back (and managed to eat most of the slow roasted tomatoes). On Sunday, I made a delicious tomato and zucchini salsa (instructions below) from a recipe that Kim found online.

Zucchini and tomato salsa
I also had tomatoes and cream cheese on toast for breakfast and fresh tomatoes, grilled zucchini and sweet corn for lunch. Then I took a handful of tomatoes (along with the salsa and about six zucchinis) over to our friends’ house for a BBQ and yet there are still tomatoes in the bowl! To make matter worse (or better), my husband went down to the garden and brought up another huge bag. And so it begins again ... 

Zucchini and Tomato Salsa
adapted by Jules from Food.com

  • 2 cups seeded tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 cup zucchini, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 4 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp chopped seeded jalapeno peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tortilla chips


  1. In a small bowl, combine first 12 ingredients.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer salsa to a serving bowl, draining some of the liquid that accumulates while refrigerated.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Humble Frittata

Last weekend my husband and I were invited to camp with my sister, her college roommates and their families. This annual camping trip is a tradition, and I knew that a major aspect of these trips is food -- each couple/family is assigned one meal, and the unspoken rules were that thought should go into that meal. There were still murmurs about how last year Robin shirked her duties by presenting a cereal buffet for breakfast one morning!

Naturally, I was concerned. If I failed with our assigned meal -- breakfast it turns out -- would we ever be invited back? Finally, I decided on frittatas. I could make them ahead of time and heat them up before serving them.

I've always loved frittatas. They're the perfect I'm-out-of-food-what-should-I-have-for-dinner dish. As long as you have eggs and herbs, you can't go wrong. You're luckier still if you have some parmesan to mix in with the eggs and a couple bowls of greens to serve on the side.

Because I was feeling ambitious, I went to the store and bought pretty much everything I could get my hands on, so that there were basil, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato frittatas, chicken sausage and mushroom frittatas ... you get the idea. In the end I spent 6 hours in my kitchen on Friday making 8 frittatas (4 kinds, 2 each).

I have to say it -- the frittatas were a hit. Even with the kids, who we brought bagels for, just in case. They really are a perfect meal, in and of themselves. Simple, hearty, fresh and complete. As for my favorite, I loved the potato, caramelized shallot and white bean frittata, which I think is best served cold. Following is my recipe for this rustic dish.

Potato, Caramelized Onion & White Bean Frittata

Makes 2 frittatas


  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb. baby potatoes
  • 2 shallots (thinly sliced into half rounds)
  • 1 can white beans (I like S&W brand)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Rosemary (minced)
  • A Tbsp or 2 of parmesan to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • Olive oil spray


1) Boil the potatoes, making sure they remain firm
2) Meanwhile, caramelize the shallots in olive oil over medium-low heat
3) Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix eggs, rosemary, parmesan and salt and pepper
4) Once potatoes have cooled, slice into coins (no need to peel)
5) Add potatoes, shallots and white beans to eggs
6) Lightly spray 10-inch frying pan (I like my Analon brand because it's heavy and nonstick) and heat it on the burner on medium-low heat.
7) Add half the egg mixture and cover
8) Let the eggs cook until they are brown and crispy on the bottom and the center is nearly done (this can take around 15 minutes or more)
9) Flip the frittata over and get it brown and crispy on the opposite side
10) Ease the frittata onto a plate and repeat with the rest of the egg mixture

The frittatas will keep for a few days in the fridge and definitely get better as the days pass.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Upcoming events for The Map of Lost Memories

With the August 21 publication date of The Map of Lost Memories nearing, my publicist is setting up lots of great events. Following are the first confirmed readings, appearances, etc. I will post more details as soon as I have them.

September 9, 2012
Book launch at Curve Line Space - details to come
Los Angeles (Eagle Rock), CA

October 7, 2012 - 2 pm
Reading at Elliott Bay Book Company
Seattle, WA

October 13-14, 2012
WordStock - event details to come
Portland, OR