Sunday, May 22, 2011

Silk Road Cooking...

This is just  a quick post about some stuff I've been up to lately. First up are a couple of dishes from Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, by Najmieh Batmanglij. I've had this cookbook for a couple years and have cooked from it only a few times. It's one cookbook that I really want to use more, so I spent some time with it this weekend.

Pages from Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey

The book is full of beautiful photos, historical narration, and intriguing recipes. It's vegetarian, not vegan, but many of the recipes are vegan, and the others are veganizable of course. Here's a link to some sample recipes to give an idea.

The Balkh Brown Lentil Soup (above) calls for fewer herbs and spices than I would usually add to lentil stews and soups, but it is so tasty in its simplicity. The recipe calls for toasting cumin seeds in oil, adding onions and garlic, then lentils and water to simmer. Towards the end you add some fresh orange and lime juice (it calls for Seville oranges, but if you don't have those, you can use a combination of orange and lime juice) and also angelica powder. According to the book, angelica powder is used as a souring agent in Persian cooking. I didn't have any, so I used a teaspoon of tamarind paste instead. From what I've gathered, angelica is nutritious and has many healthful properties; I really want to get my hands on some. Seasoned to taste, and topped with fried onions and parsley, the soup is more than the sum of its parts. 

The next recipe I chose was a Bulger and Mung Bean Pilaf.  It's another winner, seasoned with cumin seeds, shredded ginger, turmeric, and chili peppers, it's so yummy topped with fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs. The mung beans and bulger go well together and create a great texture. I ate two bowls of the leftovers for breakfast this morning. 

The whole meal was a bit of a feast actually, we had the soup as a starter and then the pilaf with a spinach, mushroom, carrot salad and a tofu tart with roasted summer squash and tomato:

The tart turned out just "ok". The tofu filling was tasty enough, I added miso paste, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, almond milk, pine nuts, garlic, onion powder, kala namak salt,  and some ume vinegar, but it didn't cook through how I wanted it...I'm still trying to get a feel for the calibration of my new oven. 

For other news, the garden is thriving. I've been harvesting fresh greens galore.

So far, we've been munching on mustard-spinach ( a hybrid of the two and a less spicy than pure mustard greens), baby kale, spinach, and radishes. I'm waiting a little longer to harvest the dandelion greens and the lettuce. The chard and collard greens will be another few weeks before they grow into nice big plants. It's a bit overcrowded at the moment, but as we harvest, space will open up.

I keep the greens under a poly tunnel at night and on cloudy days, and it makes a phenomenal difference in how fast things grow. Here's the same bed about a month ago:

It's easy to make a poly tunnel. All you need is some rebar stakes, some pliable tubing that you can get in a hardware store, and some opaque painters' plastic. You can attach the plastic to the tubes with large binder clips. This works great in climates where the temps are cool in spring and fall.

Green juice from the garden: radish tops, parsley, mustard-spinach, celery (not from the garden) and sorrel:

Radishes are one of my favorite vegetables, and for any newbie gardeners out there, I highly recommend giving radishes a try. They grow quickly and easily...and, you get double for your efforts; harvest the roots for salads and what not (you can cook them too) and eat the greens in stir fries or juices. The greens are a bit stickery, but if you steam them or juice them it's not a problem. Radishes are just little turnips, so I wager that the greens are super nutritious like turnip greens. The radishes themselves are pretty nutritious too.

My tomato and pepper starts are some of the slowest growing little guys I've ever seen! Come on guys...get growing!

And finally, in some family news: my mom adopted a little dog from a K-9 death row rescue:

Her name is Lula, and she's super smart and sweet.  She adores my mom, and we all love her. I've been visiting a lot to get in on the walking action. I hope to post a video of her soon doing one of her happy dances, which are really adorable.


  1. What is sorrel? And I've never had radish! I always wondered if I would like it. I am so jealous of your garden! I haven't started anything huge here because we plan to move back to Hawaii in a few months. My pink chard is doing well though!

  2. What a great post! The books looks great and the recipes so yummy! And your garden, wow! Fantastic! And the Juice, and Lula!

    Good week-end work!

    Ciao and have a happy week


  3. The silk road recipes sound great — toasted cumin doesn't even seem like the same spice as the untoasted version, does it? It's amazing how it can transform the simplest food into something really special. Sometimes I use amchoor powder (sour mango I think) to add a sour flavor to Indian food.

    Your garden is off to a fantastic start with so many vibrant greens. I'm hoping to have a couple of raised beds for a late summer planting. We'll see.

    Lula just tugs at my heart — I'm so happy your mom rescued her and is giving her such a happy life. She looks like a very special dog who will bring a lot of joy to her new family.

  4. Great article - I found some vegan organic fertilizer on Amazon.


  5. What a sweet pup! There is a special place in heaven for your mom, too. As for the food: YUM! That cookbook sounds intriguing. I'm impressed with the garden; I know what it's like to garden in the Pacific northwest. The tomatoes and peppers look about standard to me. I NEVER had any luck growing those in western WA!

  6. Lula!!! you are too cute for words!
    i cant believe the growth rate of your plants! thats so cool Rose. i was just now showing my mom (they are here on vacation) your blog post where you put up that bookmark that i made, she liked what you wrote, it was so sweet and fun to read. your(seed swap) post is so late but i am going to post it! hope you dont mind it being so late? i love everything that you sent!! i am showing my mom all the seeds and letter too:)

    i love the feast that you made, it all looks so good. the tofu filling sounds like something special:)

  7. Look at Lula!! That face!! She is absolutely adorable and your mom & her look so happy together. I hope you can get a video of her. I'd love to see that!

    Your garden looks amazing. I wish we could grow stuff like that so early in the season, but people are just starting to plant stuff now. All of the food looks amazing, as always. The pilaf is especially pretty. :)

  8. I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy! LOL - I am in complete awe of you all the time, and this post has just upped your awesome quotient considerably. Look at you! Your creative and delectable food and beverages, your magnificently fecund garden, your beautiful photography, your spectacular blog ~ you are just amazing, Rose!

    If we had that interactive blog thing going on, your food photos would all be of an empty table. I'd have just grabbed everything and would be hiding in a corner making contented slurping, munching, nom-nom-nom noises now. And I wouldn't even feel bad about it! :-)

    You got a new stove? Oh hurray for you! Did I miss a post about it? (Probably! I'll have to go looking!)

    I adore that photo of your mom and Lula! They look so sweet and happy together! Kudos to your mom for rescuing precious Lula, who is adorable (and so lucky to have you as a big sister, too!) :-) Can't wait to see video!

  9. wow!!...everything looks so that rice & gandules? It sure look the same as my rice when I make it...looks great.

  10. That Silk Road cookbook gets around! I saw a post about it on Vegan Eats and Treats' blog a while back, and I had to ask my library to order it. She made several dishes from it for the Persian New Year. As with her posts about it, all of your dishes look wonderful! The lentil soup sounds especially good. After the library came through, I made the bulgur and mung bean pilaf too. However, my co-op didn't have organic bulgur, and so I used quinoa instead. I wouldn't recommend that substitution. Perhaps it's just because quinoa isn't my favorite grain, but the texture of the dish with the toasted cumin seeds and slightly crunchy quinoa wasn't as satisfying as mushier bulgur.

    I'm so impressed with your garden! It looks so lush already. I didn't realize radish greens were edible. (What about carrot tops and English pea pods? Do you know?) I'll have to start saving them for my juicer!

  11. That is the cutest pup! I hope she and your mom are doing well.

    Your garden looks great. I will have to try growing some radishes. I am certainly a beginner gardener. But your work is certainly paying off - the greens mix sounds great!

  12. How sweet for your mom and the dog! Does yr mother live close by?
    Your garden is looking really well. Such thriving greens. I helped my mom plant some radishes not long ago and I've heard they're doing well for her too. Is the white thing also a radish or is that a turnip?
    The Silk Road stuff looks great - I've never had mung beans but I hear they're really good for you. Amy at Vegan Eats and Treats has made a lot of stuff from the book and it sounds really interesting.

  13. What can I say that hasn't already been said before/above? The abundant healthy food, gorgeous photography, lush gardens, green drink with a strawberry!, the kindly pup-loving Mom -- all perfectly idyllic.

    Laloofah is right -- I'm not worthy!

  14. The Bulger and Mung Bean Pilaf sounds particularly delicious. Indian food presents a combination of wonderful spices to satisfy the palate. Mmm... I have some Farro cooking in the slow cooker with dinner awaiting for me at home tonight.

    Thanks for sharing today.

  15. Carissa:

    Sorrel is a perennial leafy plant, I think it's related to rhubarb, but I could be mistaken about that. It has a puckery taste that reminds me of sour apples. It's good in salads and soups etc. The leaves contain oxalic acid, so eating it in small amounts is fine, but if you eat loads of it you'd be poisoned.

    Never had a radish? Bless. I think you'd like them, they're crunchy and a little spicy. If you like turnips, you'd probably like radish.

    Moving back to Hawaii? You must be delighted! Keep us posted! Pink chard sounds lovely too. :)


    Gardening season is probably winding down where you are…but we're just getting started here, hoping for a nice summer. Thanks and happy week to you too! :)


    You're so right about the toasted cumin seeds! It does transform a dish, I had never realized before. I would love to try some amchoor powder, I bet it would be a perfect substitution for the angelica.

    Keep us posted on your raised beds! What are you going to plant?

    Professor Wit: Thanks for the link!


    The book is intriguing with many ingredients and combinations that are exotic and completely new to me. Your right about the heat crops in the Pacific NW…it's always a challenge.

  16. Michelle:

    The poly tunnel really does make a huge difference! I don't think you'd need it in Arizona though...temps are probably plenty warm without it. Glad you got the seeds! No worries about posting it etc, but I'll be interested to see how they do when you plant them. Gardening in Arizona must be so different from gardening here.

    Have fun with your folks! :)


    Lula is a cutie isn't she? She is at my mom's side all the time and just wants to be near people.

    Sounds like you get a later start in the garden in your parts, but I bet you get nice hot weather in the summer with plenty of sun, so that makes up for it. Our growing season is generally cool weather all the time.


    Oh, get out with that I'm not worthy stuff!! Love the image of you munching away in the corner! We could empty each other's tables it would be a new way of eating out.

    And yes, we finally got a new stove! The oven gave out on the old one and that was the last straw.

    Isn't Lula a sweetie? I'll give her a hug from you next time I see her.


    Thanks for your sweet does look like rice, but it's bulger wheat. I'm sure your rice dish is delicious!

  17. How exciting that your mom adopted Lula! What a great picture of them....looks like a perfect match! :o)

    Your garden is gorgeous! All those greens...I would go crazy. I've never been big on radishes, but I am wanting to give them another try. I didn't know that their greens were edible. I learned something new today! :o) Your tamato plants may be slow growing but they sure look healthy.

    Seeing your great looking juice makes we want to pull my juicer back out.

    Oh, the soup sounds wonderful!

  18. Cadry

    Thanks for the link to Amy's post, I'll definitely check it out I'm sure she whipped up some wonderful dishes! She's always cooking up something fun over there!

    The lentil soup is really good! Too bad the pilaf didn't turn out as nice with the quinoa...I think I'd prefer the bulger to the quinoa too. Hopefully, you'll be able to get some organic bulger and give it another go!

    Carrot tops and pea pods are edible. I often put stuff like that in to make veggie broth, but juicing them is an even better idea.


    If you plant some radishes, keep us posted on their progress. I like to eat them straight out of the earth while I'm out in the garden (after a little wash of course)...they're a tasty snack. And thanks for your well wishes to mom and Lula!


    My mom does live nearby, so I'm over there at least 3 or 4 times a week, and now that Lula's around there's even more fun to be had.

    Glad to hear your mom's radishes are doing well! The white one is a radish too. I planted a radish blend, so there are pink ones, red ones, long ones, short ones, and white's just more fun that way. I have to say though, my favorite radishes are the French Breakfast varieties.

    And thanks for mentioning Amy's post, I'm heading over to check it out asap.


    I told Laloofah and I'm telling you too: go away with the "not worthy" stuff! Of course I know better than to take it seriously though. :D

  19. Chucky

    Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you about Indian dishes, and it's a cuisine that I really need recipes for, because when I try to wing it on my own the flavors never turn out right. Your farro sounds delish.

  20. Hey Rose, beautiful post as usual. Do those tunnels help at all in terms of guarding against bugs? We keep trying to grow spinach but something eats it up every year, and we've ruled out rabbits, etc.

  21. Hi Michelle!

    I think Lula and my mom are a pretty good match. Lula needs someone who's home most of the time because she just frets when she's alone. And, aside from going out to the store, my mom is pretty much home all the time.

    We'll see about the tomatoes...I'm sure yours are well beyond mine! : )


    The poly tunnel certainly keeps out big critters like cats and rabbits, but insects tend to be able to get when you open it up for ventilation and slugs and snails can squeeze in anywhere. To protect against insects, I would recommend a floating row cover. You just have to hope the little guys aren't already in there when you put it on...if you put it on right from the beginning when planting you can be pretty sure.

  22. That is a great garden! I am so jealous!

  23. What a super fun post. A Vegetarian Journey looks like a beautiful book and your creations from it look super yummy! I loved looking at your garden and that green juice looks so fresh. I am very impressed:) Also, how sweet that your Mom rescued Lulu. She looks like a very nice dog.

  24. Rose -- always great dishes. So enjoy reading all the herbs and spices that you use. Gives me ideas. Your mom's dog, lulu, is sweet looking. Hats off to your mom for saving the dog (I'm a big dog lover). -- barbara

  25. That looks like a nice cookbook to add to my collection! Thanks for sharing...all the meals you've made so far look wonderful.
    Your garden is producing wonderfully and that mustard-spinach sounds really good!

    How sweet that your mom adopted a dog!

  26. Hi JoLynn!

    The mustard spinach is quite nice...much milder than mustard greens, especially the young leaves.

  27. Great post! That recipe book looks beautiful! If only I could justify buying yet another one...

    So envious of your wonderful greens! We'll have to wait about another month till ours look like that. I'll show John your radishes. He's a fiend for them! :)

    Sweet wee dog! And how lovely that your mum has rescued her!

  28. This whole post was awesome. The food looks great! It's funny I took a photo with lemons placed like that just a couple of nights ago. Somehow I deleted all of them when I was preparing a post :( Oh well!

    Thanks for showing the progress from your garden tunnel! It looks great and it's nice to gain a better understanding of these things. You make it sound so easy!

  29. Rose -- getting back to you about organics --checked out Whole Food and Kroger's organic section -- looking for info on produce if bought separately. I found that there is nothing to tell you at what level the item is organically. In fact the proclaimed organic bananas did not even have a USDA label. This is a poor system we have in place. I am happy that there is some correct labeling in whole Foods and Krogers. Better some than none but come on we as consumers deserve better labels from our govt. -- barbara

  30. Penny,

    I know what you mean about cookbooks...I have too many already that I don't use nearly enough. And, do keep us updated on your allotment progress...I love to hear about what other gardeners are up to. :)


    I love fresh lemon on food, it really brings up the flavor don't you think? Too bad you deleted the pics...I've done that before too. As for the garden, it's a continuous learning process...even for gardeners much more advanced than me, I'm just a beginning- to- intermediate gardener, I reckon. :)


    Thanks for getting back to me. Hmmm, interesting. I agree that the system is poor...and by and large stilted towards the chemical farming industry. :(

    My neighborhood farmers' market opens tomorrow, I'll ask some of the farmers about it and get their insights.

    Rose :)

  31. Your garden is where I would love to be right now. I would be a nosy little Minnie.

    Lula has captured my heart.

  32. What a sweet looking puppy! Your garden is really impressive. What are you growing now that we're a little further into the season?

  33. Jennifer and Shaheen thanks for stopping by! :)


    Right now, I've got squash, cucumber, tomatoes and peppers in...but they haven't even set buds yet, to it will be a while before I get any harvest from them. I should be harvesting peas, favas, and garlic soon, and hopefully potatoes in another month...everything is a little later than usual here because of a colder than average spring.

    On your side of the mountains, I imagine things will grow and produce much faster.

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