Tag Archives: veggies

Hoagie heaven

Whether you call it a hoagie, sub, or grinder, no doubt this sandwich has been embedded in American gastronomic culture like almost no other. Sandwich chains are everywhere, offering innumerable ingredients stuffed into a variety  of breads and rolls.

Homemade perfection - in a roll

I stopped going to [insert name of mega-popular sandwich chain shop here] because, frankly, the food wasn’t all that good, the cleanliness quality always seemed lacking (no matter which shop I went to), and asking for a veggie sub always resulted in “No mayo? Not even cheese?” and funny looks from the surly submaker. Most disheartening: the veggies used were tasteless  and probably not always fresh as they said.

And a veggie sub is simply that: a veggie sub. A piece of bread stuffed with veg. I can do that, I thought, and set out to construct my own amazing subs (hoagies/grinders) in my own kitchen using unique and varied (and fresh!) vegetables, proscribed proportions be damned.

Now that I make them at home, they never disappoint. A spritz of balsamic and olive oil? Sure. Some cracked black pepper atop avocado, tomatoes, red onion, green and yellow pepper, maybe a smear of hummus to add moistness, tucked inside a bakery baguette, crisp on the outside, pillowy-soft on the inside, and just perfect.  That, to me, is the superior sandwich.

You can do this too, folks. Don’t go to those sub shops if you don’t have to (go if you must), but I promise you, a little noodling around in the kitchen with your fresh veggies and good bread will make you a convert.

Stock it to me

There is nothing, in my opinion, more glorious and humble

Gorgeous, isn't it?

than beautiful homemade vegetable stock.

Radical radishes


I am officially over my longstanding childhood dislike/fear of radishes. Roasting them low and slow in the  oven in garlic butter renders them sweet and tender and soft. Drizzle crusty french bread with the melted butter, top with the halved radishes, salt/pepper, and you have a winner of a simple, delicate lunch.

Idea courtesy The New York Times 

It’s all Greek to me (and a little Italian, too)

The nondescript exterior. But oh, the yummies inside!

On the way back from an IKEA shopping trip, my driving pal impulsively decided she wanted to stop at the Spiros Pasadena Produce and Deli to pick up a Greek salad for her supper. We’d both separately driven by this little store, in an even-smaller strip shopping center in South Pasadena, but had never bothered to actually stop in. Now, on a later Saturday afternoon after a frenzied day of shopping, we were both glad we did.

It’s funny, too. We had had lunch together, earlier in the day, fantasizing about where in the world we would go if we had the money. She said Greece; I said Italy. We both agreed that both places would be a blast if for nothing other than the cuisine! And I’ve always loved Italian markets. Growing up North, I remember my mom stopping at a large Italian speciality deli in a (wait for it….) strip shopping center in Cleveland. I distinctly remember the smell of olives and freshly cured meats; we would usually walk out with bread and real Italian tomato paste that came in a squeeze tube – far superior to anything in a can on an American shelf.

Obligatory Greek statue.

But back to Spiros. It does double duty as a little casual cafe and provisions shop. While my friend studied the menu and eventually ordered a salad, I wandered the shop looking for goodies – and possibly, my dinner for the evening as well. On the cafe side, Spiros offers cold sandwiches (mortadella, chicken salad, classic hoagies, capicola, etc); hot sandwiches (gyros, eggplant parm, grouper sub, pork souvlaki, meatball sub); and salads such as the classic Greek, Chef Salad, and Spiro Special, with romaine, tomato, feta, tabbouleh, and tzatziki sauce. (Hungry yet?)

You can also get Greek and Italian dinner classics – moussaka, lasagna, roasted lamb.

Feta, feta, feta. FETA!

What stunned me were Spiros’ produce prices. I couldn’t believe that this tiny shop had better-than-competitive prices than the giant chain supermarket in the next parking lot. Fresh lemons, 4 for $1, heads of garlic, the same; healthy-looking eggplant, lettuces, carrots, tomatoes of all sizes and onions, jicama, Swiss chard (my new, recent love), broccoli, and mushrooms. What caught my eye first were the size of the portobella mushrooms, and it was then and there that I constructed a dinner in my head. At the deli counter (I smelled it before I saw it!) they offer loads of yummy olives, and my favorite, feta cheese. The feta prices per pound were reasonable, and I knew that feta was what I wanted to stuff my giant portabello mushroom with. I ordered a half pound, and it came nicely double wrapped in paper and plastic wrap: a nice, fragrant, healthy-looking chunk of delicious cheese that puts “store-bought” to shame.

Ready-made dinners.

If you’re feeling lazy or are in a hurry, Spiros pre-makes their yummy Greek-Italo dinners for your convenience: just take home and reheat. Grab a bottle of wine and some baklava from the deli, and you are good to go. Bliss!

My favorite part of Spiros (besides the cheese)  is the dry goods: Alessi brand foods, like dried soups, espresso, ladyfingers, cannoli shells, and marinara sauces. Alessi (based in Tampa) always makes quality stuff and it’s painfully authentic Italian. (If you’ve never been to the Alessi restaurant in Tampa, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit.) Spiros even offers pignoli nuts in bulk – how cool is that?

Vigo & Alessi - Tampa homeboys.

I wound up with just the half pound of feta, giant mushroom, and fresh head of garlic, but resisted temptation for other things (which is tres difficulte for me!). And let me tell you: that fresh feta was AMAZING. Perfectly salty but not too, it complemented the garlic and the portabello as I grilled the three together. When I want my next feta fix, it’s going to come from Spiros (and as they’re open 7 days a week – not made hard at all).

You can find Spiros at 6801 Gulfport Blvd South, in South Pasadena. Go – and indulge.

One Way with Swiss Chard

I’d always wanted to try it but never had the chance before. It’s hard to find in this part of Florida. When I stumbled upon it at the local health food store last week, its seductive red stalks beckoned to me and I just had to buy it. At $1.99 for an organic batch, it seemed a good deal.

Problem was, never having prepared it before, I was a little bewildered. I did a little research on ways to cook it, even consulting Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She recommended cooking it like other greens, sauteed in olive oil, but I do that so often with other veggies, that it just seemed boring to me.

Then a lightbulb came on: quiche! An elegant, crustless quiche, able to be served hot or cold, would do the trick nicely. I sauteed the beautiful chard with red onion…

…whipped up some eggs and mozzarella, sea salt and black coarsely ground pepper, and folded the veggies in. Mixed well; poured into a pie plate, and topped it with just a squinch of herbs de Provence.

It turned out beautifully and made a sophisticated little lunch!

Now, I am not normally an egg eater; as a matter of fact I stay far and away from them at all times. But I have seen some quiche recipes with silken tofu and I do plan to try using that next time so I don’t have to deal with the evil Egg empire. Quiche is a nice changeup from the burger-fries lunch – it does feel like a special thing, but really takes almost no time to cook. Like an omelet, you can throw anything into the mix and it usually comes out yummy. Quiche – it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Chard – good-looking and good for you, too!

Here is a little video to get you inspired to make quiche: 😉

Pickles on the cheap

Why settle for soggy, oversugared, unflavorful store-bought pickles, when you can easily and more cheaply make your own?

If it’s quick refrigerator pickles you want, then it’s quick refrigerator pickles you shall make. Cukes are cheap (I got mine for a quarter) and the pickling ingredients are nominal as well. I packed my jar with dill, turmeric, 2 cloves of garlic, a pinch of sea salt, black pepper, mustard seeds. Plain white vinegar and a dash of water took care of the rest. I usually wait about 4 days until digging in – and boy, they are good! Try to use them within the week. Discard the old solution, clean your jar in the dishwasher, and try pickling other things, too!

The fruits of my labor

These are some of the beans and peas from my garden. I fixed them up in a fiery Thai curry with noodles. The beans were so bright green after cooking, and tasted so fresh!

My first real, fresh, homegrown produce of the year!

Turnip greens. And I grew them. Delicious, life-giving, vitamin-packed turnip greens. I sauteed them in some garlic oil. So fresh and delicious!

Turnip tops

I think they’re kind of cute; a personality all their own. (PS: The mashed/pan fried turnips were delish.)

Mmm, Thanksgiving

I love to cook. No, really, I do. Give me a full cupboard and some pans, and set me loose. I spent 6 hours in the kitchen yesterday doing things I don’t normally do, like peel apples and fold artichokes into beaten eggs. But here are some of my vainglorious efforts:

Vegan green bean casserole. Modified slightly from the original recipe, which you can find here.

Artichoke torta, a lovely brunch dish!

But…I am so not cooking today. That’s what leftovers are for. 🙂