The Vegetable Butcher

I’ve been living with my parents in Springboro, Ohio for the past couple of weeks until I make the big move to Houston to being my doctoral program (more on that in a later post).  I’ve got to admit that it’s been a bit of a life adjustment living with my parents here after having lived with one of my best friends in Cleveland, especially right after the Cavs won the NBA championship.  Springboro has something, however, that Cleveland and Lebron do not: Dorthy Lane Market. Two nights ago my mom, sister-in-law, and I had a girls night at a one of the market’s cooking classes featuring The Vegetable Butcher.  First, I need to say, the kitchen at the Dorthy Lane Market Culinary Center is BEAUTIFUL.  There is something about a white kitchen that gets me. Every. Time. In a white kitchen, the food is the focus.  I also think white kitchens just epitomize cleanliness and make me feel good, knowing what I am eating is good and safe to eat.

This feeling was made even better when Cara Mangini, the owner and executive chef of Columbus’s Little Eater, and our chef for the night, took the stove. Cara launched her first cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher, a few months ago and used this stop on her book tour to celebrate local, summer vegetables. The night began with a crostini topped with goat cheese and marinated basil and garlic peppers that was sweet and tangy in all the right spots.  While making this, Cara went over the knife essentials she recommends (chef’s knife, pairing knife, serrated knife, and the optional “cashmere socks” (it is not necessary, but sure is nice!) knife, the Japanese cleaver). She also showed us a handy tip on how to chop a pepper without getting messy with the seeds.  Cut off the top and bottom, make a cut through the side and then slide the knife around the pepper’s core, cutting it away from the ribs and seeds.


Next up, she made her seaside gazpacho, inspired by a gazpacho she had eaten in Spain with her best friend and (lots of) wine….could she have made me want her life any more?  Cara loved the gazpacho she ate in Spain, but admitted that it was hard to separate the gazpacho from her experience traveling with her best friend and, of course, the wine!  One of Cara’s main points about her food was not about the food. It was about how food is a celebration of the farmers and land that enabled it to grow and the people with whom you consume it. But, after tasting this gazpacho, I can tell you, that I would probably enjoy it even if I was eating alone in a dark box.  This is tomato time, and they truly showed themselves off in this dish.   My sister-in-law noted that it would be a great dish for her to pack for lunch at work.  Couldn’t agree more.



Our next dish was corn fritters with a summer bean ragu and balsamic reduction. This one was all of our favorites.  I was nervous that the fritters were going to be too oily after being fried, but they were perfect and still had whole kernels of fresh sweet corn that gave the fritters great texture.  While making these, Cara gave us a great tip about how to shave corn off the cob without the mess: break the cob in half before cutting the corn off.  The less distance for the kernels to fall, the less mess!  Simple tips like this make all the difference!


My favorite part of the evening, though, was when Cara freestyled to show us how to chop an artichoke.  Let’s be real. Those guys can be intimidating.  Now, though, I feel ready to take one on!  Confident that it’ll come out perfectly? Not quite, but I’m ready to try out her recipe for grilled and smothered artichokes–her recommendation for artichoke novices!

The meal ended sweetly with her olive oil zucchini cake with lemon drizzle. By now, you can safely assume, we thought it was delicious. Once again, Cara made vegetables a natural part of the plate.

I get a lot of questions about how people can make their diet better; “What is the one thing that I could change to be healthier?”  At first this was a difficult question for me to field. Aside from usually not knowing about the questioners’ current dietary habits, I believe in helping people develop their own diet to support their life, not the other way around. But the one blank advice statement I can make, that holds true no matter who you are or what you do, is to eat more vegetables. I loved how Cara never mentioned vegetarian or vegan, like so many other cooks who focus on vegetables do.  Her entire focus of this night and of her book is to make vegetables a natural part of people’s meals. Vegetables aren’t for vegetarians.  Vegetables are for everyone.

I cannot thank Cara enough for such a wonderful evening (and my father for treating his girls to a night out)!  I’m headed out for a trip to visit one of my best friends this weekend, but get ready, because I’m about to dig into The Vegetable Butcher and get real flirty with some vegetables!  First up: getting over my artichoke fear!




2016: The Year of the Pulses

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}

Maybe you’ve heard or maybe you haven’t, but the UN declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.  Now, we usually think of a pulse as the palpitation of our heartbeats that lets us know we’re alive and signals how vigorously we’re exercising.  While this kind of pulse is definitely worth celebrating (something Andy Grammer did last year singing Good to be Alive), the UN is focusing on the other kind of pulse: Legumes. Agriculturally, a pulse is a crop that is harvested only for its dry grain.  Therefore, pulses include crops like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and split peas. These are edible seeds that grow in a pod and should be cooked before they are eaten.  In contrast, vegetables are crops that are harvested for green food and (obviously) can be eaten raw or cooked.

So, why’d the UN decide to highlight pulses this year?  Because pulses aren’t just a win-win.  They’re a win-win-win: They’re cheap, nutritious, AND they have positive effects on the environment! The nutrition profile differs based on the specific pulse, but generally speaking, legumes are a good source of plant-based protein and are high in iron, folate, and potassium.

In an effort to celebrate the year of pulses, each month (or so…) I will post recipes highlighting various legumes and their nutritional greatness.  First up: chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans.  Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, protein, iron, and a number of B Vitamins.FullSizeRender

Chickpeas can be used in many ways, but the most common way you’ll see is mashed up and combined with tahini and oil to create hummus.  I’m a huge hummus fan.  It makes a great dip for veggies and a tasty sandwich spread.  There are a number of really good store-bought hummus brands.  When buying from the store you want to aim for about 150mg sodium per serving.  This will allow you a little sodium wiggle room in case you plan to enjoy your hummus with 1/2 a serving of pretzels or pita chips in addition to your veggies (carrots, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, snap peas etc are all great options). You’ll feel fuller after snacking on hummus and veggies than on hummus and pretzels or pita chips.

Another thing I really like about hummus is the variety of flavors it comes in. Be careful here though because the different varieties can result in a nutrition loss just as easily as a nutrition gain…the levels of vitamins as well as sodium, sugar, and fat can vary between varieties. When you make hummus at home, though, YOU have control of how much salt and oil you put in, and your flavor options are limitless!  This sunshine hummus recipe, for example, has curry powder, garlic, and turmeric which really kick up the antioxidant profile of the dip.

I was given this recipe from the Nourishing Kitchen program at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.  Started by Jackie Topol, RDN, Nourishing Kitchen is a really unique cooking demo program that teaches inpatient oncology and cardiology patients and their families diet-appropriate recipes and cooking tips they can use when they get back home. IMG_5739

This hummus recipe is intended for oncology patients, but is delicious for everyone!  One of the side effects of cancer treatments is a weakened sense of taste and loss in appetite.  Besides containing powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds these patients need, the curry, turmeric, and garlic are also really strong flavors which enables oncology patients be able to actually taste their food.  This goes a long way in getting these patients to eat during treatment, a critical component of their success.

Sunshine Hummus Recipe

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
  • Print

*Recipe from Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CSD, CDN, The Nourishing Kitchen, New York Presbyterian Hospital

1 (15.5oz) can low-sodium chickpeas, rinsed
1 large clove of garlic
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
sea salt to taste

1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or strong blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Adjust the spices to your taste.
3. Enjoy with cut up vegetables.