Kevin Gillespie’s Root Vegetable Soup

Last summer Top Chef Kevin Gillespie came to our co-op because he was hosting a video series sponsored by Stronger Together, being filmed for the International Year of Cooperatives.  Our co-op was chosen to take part in the series because of our involvement with our community.  He attended our summer party and visited Heritage Lane Farm, Misty Meadows Farm and Bellingham Urban Garden Syndicate (BUGS) to talk about their relationship with our co-op and our community.

Kevin Gillespie 7.31.11Before he left town, I got to go out to dinner with him and the film crew and we talked a lot about food (of course!) as well as his upcoming (and now published) cookbook Fire in my Belly.  It’s a great read – lots of photos, a fun layout, and anecdotes from the author.  He told me I could demo any of his recipes any time and with the icy fog abounding in our region, I thought his Root Vegetable Soup recipe would be just about perfect for my recipe demo this week.

© 2013 Community Food Co-op

© 2013 Community Food Co-op

This is a recipe he created based on a dish his grandma used to make.  It is very simple to make, although it does require some knife skills as all the veggies need to be cut into the same size pieces to cook correctly.  I must admit that it was my first time preparing some of the root vegetables in this dish, and it was also a great excuse to use some of the delicious local produce we still have in stock (organic Jerusalem Artichokes, aka sunchokes, from Rabbit Fields Farm in Everson).  The recipe calls for turnip greens, which we do carry occasionally but are out of currently, so I substituted collard greens.  Other than that I was pretty true to the original recipe, except for cutting it down to 4 servings (you can find the original recipe for 8 servings in Kevin’s book).

ChiffonadeOne of my favorite cutting techniques is chiffonade – you roll your leafy greens into a roll and cut thin little ribbons.  They are so pretty and you can cut through a pile of greens in no time.  As for cutting the various root vegetables into a small dice, you will have to expect some waste as you first have to square off the edges of the veggies so you are left with flat edges to cut your dice from.  If you need a little guidance for safe and effective cutting techniques, you can check out the video and photos at Stella Culinary.

Root Vegetable Soup © 2013 Community Food Co-op

Root Vegetable Soup © 2013 Community Food Co-op

Root Vegetable Soup

adapted from Fire in my Belly by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim, used with permission


  • 4 oz Pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced into 1/4” pieces (vegetarian option below)
  • 1 1/4 c onion, diced 1/4”
  • 2/3 c rutabaga, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 1/2 c celery, diced 1/4”
  • 1/3 c carrots, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 3/4 c sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichoke), peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 3/4 c turnips, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 1/2 c parsnip, peeled and diced 1/4”
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (a mandolin works great for this task)
  • 3 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 pepper
  • 1 t sea salt
  • ~ 2 c Turnip greens or Collard greens, sliced into chiffonade (thin strips)
  • Juice from one lemon


  • ~1/8 c Italian parsley, minced
  • ~1/8 c chives, very thinly sliced
  • ~1/8 c celery leaves, minced


  1. Heat a large enameled cast-iron pot or other soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the pancetta, stir, and cook until the pancetta is golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the onions, rutabaga, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables start to soften and the onions become translucent, about 6 minutes, stirring now and then.
  4. Add the sunchokes, turnips, and parsnips and cook for an additional 8 minutes, stirring a few times.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the chicken stock, pepper, and salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then cut the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.  The vegetables should be just tender.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the turnip greens and about 1 T lemon juice.  Taste and season as needed with additional salt and lemon juice.
  8. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the parsley, chives, and celery leaves.

Tips from the Top Chef:

  • Don’t be tempted to mince the garlic here.  It should be sliced. If you mince it, the small pieces will cook faster and develop a bitter taste.  The slices also contribute to the texture of the soup.
  • If you want to make the soup ahead, prepare it up to the point of simmering the vegetables in the seasoned stock.  Cool it down, and refrigerate it for up to 2 days.  Then reheat the soup and add the greens and lemon juice just before serving and garnishing.
  • If you don’t have the root vegetables listed, then you can substitute with what you do have.  The most important thing is to dice all the vegetables the same size so they cook quickly and evenly before the liquid is added.  The vegetables retain better shape and flavor this way.

Root Vegetable Soup PDF

For a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock; sauté 4-5 shiitake mushrooms (cut into thin slices about a 1/4″ wide) over medium heat in 1-2 T butter or a fatty oil until they are soft, about 7 minutes, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.  Alternately you can use vegetarian bacon, prepared and cooked just like the pancetta in the recipe.  Neither will give you the same rich flavor of the pork, but either should add some umami to the dish.

Carrot Ginger Salad

April can be hit or miss in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and luckily this year is more of a hit – we have had great luck with beautiful weather on the weekends this month and it’s making all of us excited for summertime.  For my recipe this week, I wanted to pick something that tasted fresh and summery and I found what I was looking for in Organic Farm & Garden magazine (a Popular Gardening Series “magabook” by Hobby  They offer several recipes in this issue (along with great organic gardening advice) and I thought their recipe for Carrot Ginger Salad would be a winner.  (Note – we are sold out of the magazine at the Co-op, but you can get it online at either of the links above.)

Photo courtesy of Jerry Janeway © 2012

We still have delicious and sweet  local carrots from Hedlin Family Farm, a third generation organic farm in the waterfront town of La Conner (home to author Tom Robbins).  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing right now, and this would be a perfect weekend to spend some time outside tiptoeing through the tulips (they won’t actually let you do that, but you get the idea).  But I digress…back to the carrots!

A lot of carrot salads are soaked in mayonnaise and have added sugar, and I didn’t want to go in that direction; this recipe is flavorful, fresh, and tastes like summer – the carrots give a nice sweet crunch and the dressing and fresh ginger add a dimension that you wouldn’t expect, as it leaves you with a subtle succession of flavors. I was hesitant to combine some of the ingredients that were listed – cumin and mint with ginger…are they crazy?  Turns out they are brilliant, as the flavors work really well within the acidic dressing and compliment the carrots and ginger perfectly.  This salad is also really simple to make and would be perfect to bring to a potluck or gathering, as it keeps at room temperature for several hours.  Enjoy!

Carrot Ginger Salad © Sassy Sampler 2012

Carrot Ginger Salad

Serves 6

adapted from Organic Farm & Garden magazine, Volume 1, 2nd edition


  • 5 large carrots (about 2.5-3#) , grated diagonally or cut julienne
  • 1 T fresh grated ginger


  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 heaping T  fresh mint, chopped


  1. In a large bowl, combine carrots and grated ginger.  Cover and refrigerate for about a half hour so the flavors can combine.
  2. In a jar with a lid, mix lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper and cumin, and the mint.  Shake to combine.
  3. Add dressing to carrots and mix well.  If time permits, allow the salad to sit on the counter for about half an hour before serving so the flavors can combine.

For best flavor, allow the salad to come to room temperature before serving.  (Dressed) salad will keep for several days in the fridge.  Cover tightly.  You can also double the dressing recipe if you want a spicier version.

You may be hesitant to add the cumin and mint to this salad, but don’t skip (or substitute) those ingredients—they add complexity to the salad and are an important factor in the overall flavor.

Carrot Ginger Salad PDF

Butternut Squash Dip

In honor of the big game this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to make a healthy (yet still tasty!) dip to sample.

I’ll admit, we’re a baseball household (even when the Mariners are having a dismal season; we’ll miss you this year Dave!). I haven’t watched the Super Bowl since I was a teenager, and one of the main reasons I did was because my dad would let my brother and I get any snacks that we wanted for game time – can anyone say sugar overload?

This butternut squash dip is kind of in that vein – the flavor assemblage of squash and goat chevre makes for a sweet combination, with a subtle hint of roasted garlic. I know, sounds kinda weird, but it is delish!

I found the recipe on All Recipes website – it had gotten pretty good reviews and I thought it sounded intriguing. After asking a couple co-workers if they thought it sounded good, I went for it. It was extremely easy to make – you just roast the squash (cut in half and rubbed with olive oil) and the garlic and mash all the rest of the ingredients together with a spoon after it has cooled enough to handle. You can serve the dip warm or chilled (I elected for chilled when I sampled it for customers).

I used a couple small heads of the local red winter garlic since it was available. We only have the 8oz logs of goat chevre at the Co-op, so you can either cut back on the squash (I used a 2.25# squash with 11oz of goat cheese) and get the 8oz log, or I recommend trying a couple of the 5oz packages – either the plain or the pepper flavored ones. I served it with (gluten-free) Food Should Taste Good multi-grain chips and sweet potato chips – I had never tried their sweet potato chips before and found a new favorite!

Butternut Squash Dip

Makes about 4 cups


  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded (about 2 1/4#)
  • olive oil for brushing on squash
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 11 oz of goat cheese (chevre)
  • ~1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c walnuts, finely chopped
  • Pinch sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.
  2. Brush the cut side of the squash halves with some of the olive oil, and place them oiled side down on a baking sheet/dish.
  3. Cut the top off of the head of garlic.
  4. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil, and place on the baking sheet/dish with the squash.
  5. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the squash can easily be pierced with a fork.
  6. Scoop the squash out of its skin when it is cool enough to handle, and place in a serving bowl.
  7. Squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins, and into the bowl with the squash.
  8. Mash until smooth.
  9. Stir in the goat cheese, lemon juice, and sea salt until well blended.
  10. Sprinkle walnuts over the top.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a more mild flavor, you can substitute cream cheese for 1/2 of the goat cheese.

Butternut Squash Dip PDF

Roasted Garlic Hummus

Is there a better savory smell than roasting garlic?

“Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, dating at least as far back as the time that the Giza pyramids were built”, according to Wikipedia. It has been thought to lower cholesterol, ward off heart disease, and could prevent certain types of cancer. It has both negative and positive spiritual connotations, as every major religion has some kind of reference or myth involving garlic.

So guess what my main ingredient was this week…garlic!

I decided to make a roasted garlic hummus to spice up the dreary day. Hummus is incredibly easy to make, and isn’t very time consuming. You do need a food processor to make quick work of it, however.

This week’s recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated, my all-time favorite cooking magazine. I’m never concerned that one of their recipes won’t be fantastic because they do all the testing and experimenting for you. I looked at many hummus recipes, but ended up choosing theirs because I knew it would be tasty.

Start off with two nice sized heads of garlic – Cook’s recommends that you wrap your garlic in foil before roasting, and I had never done this before. It worked great and made for super easy clean-up. While that is cooking, you slice up another couple of cloves and make some fragrant garlic chips (you’ll use the garlic oil that is created as a result in the hummus).

You can choose to use dried chickpeas – soak them overnight and then cook them while your garlic is roasting (both will need to cool before you make the hummus). I chose to use a can of organic Field Day Garbanzo beans, for the convenience.

Customers really liked the hummus, and many had tips from their own hummus making experiences: a co-worker “sprouts” his dried chickpeas in hot water overnight and then doesn’t cook them; another recommends adding a shredded cucumber to the hummus, which would add a refreshing flavor to it; another adds grated fresh ginger.

Hummus is actually a pretty healthy snack when made from scratch – it is high in protein, iron, Vitamin C (especially if you use fresh lemon), and dietary fiber. Eating it with vegetables instead of chips or pita bread make it a healthy lunch for students or as an after-school snack.


photo roasted garlic hummus

Roasted Garlic Hummus © 2011 Sassy Sampler



  • 2 heads garlic + 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 T juice from 1-2 lemons
  • 1/4 water
  • 6 T tahini, stirred well (I prefer roasted tahini for it’s fuller flavor)
  • 1 (14 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 t chopped fresh parsley


  1. Remove papery outer skins from garlic heads and discard.  Cut top quarters off heads and discard.
  2. Wrap garlic in foil and roast in a 350°F oven until browned and very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic slices to paper towel lined plate and set aside; reserve oil.
  4. Once roasted garlic is cool, squeeze cloves from their skins (you should have about 1/4 c).
  5. Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Whisk together tahini and garlic cooking oil in second small bowl or measuring cup.
  6. Process garbanzo beans, roasted garlic, salt, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds.  Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula.
  7. With machine running, add lemon juice water mixture in a steady stream through the feed tube.  Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute.
  8. With machine running, add oil/tahini mixture in a steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
  9. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle toasted garlic slices and parsley over surface, cover with plastic wrap and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.  If you do not plan on serving immediately, refrigerate hummus and garnishes separately.  When ready to serve, stir in approx. 1 T of warm water if the texture is too thick.

Roasted Garlic Hummus PDF

Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Now that it is October, my mind has focused on fall recipes.  My husband has already made the first crock pot roast of the season, and I bought a beautiful organic chicken to make French Chicken in a Pot this weekend.

For my demo this Friday, I knew that it would be an overcast day, so I couldn’t resist putting together a pot of soup.  I wanted to find a recipe that would be easy, yet still use some of the local produce that we have coming in (the carrots, garlic, and onion were all local).  I found a good base recipe on and went from there.  While I was preparing it I made a few tweaks to the recipe and voilà, I had a delicious black bean soup all ready for sampling!

This recipe uses canned beans, corn and tomatoes.  You could absolutely soak some dry beans overnight and use those instead, but part of the beauty of this recipe is that you can make the whole thing in an hour and it tastes like it took all day.  I used Field Day Organic Black Beans, Westbrae Organic Yellow Corn, and Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (who has a pretty fantastic website).  I also used Imagine Organic Vegetable Stock, but be aware that if you are gluten-intolerant, you may want to use another brand – although there are no gluten containing ingredients in this stock, it is not certified gluten-free like their broths are.

I feel stock tends to be richer in flavor because the ingredients are concentrated.  Stock vs. broth seems to be debatable however, as I found out when I went online to see if there was a definable difference – some cooks/cookbooks feel there is no difference, and some feel that vegetable stock doesn’t exist because a stock is historically meat based and made with the bones (see video for difference as defined by Rouxbe cooking school).  You know your own palette, so make the best decision for your personal tastes!

This was one of my most popular demos – I gave out the most recipes of any demo, and the giant pot I made was gone before the customers were.  I guess shoppers really were ready for some soup!  Get creative with veggie substitutions – I’m always a big proponent of using what you have on hand!

Black Bean Vegetable Soup Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Black Bean Vegetable Soup


1 T olive oil (or other healthy fat)

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 carrots, chopped thinly

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 t chili powder (or more, to taste)

1 t ground cumin

2 1/2—4 c vegetable (or chicken) stock (not broth)

3 15 oz. cans of black beans, drained

1 can of whole kernel corn, drained

1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes

Black pepper to taste


1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.

2. Cook onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, and celery, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until onion is just softened.

3. Add chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring, for about a minute—until mixture is fragrant.

4. Add stock (start with 2 1/2—3 cups), one and a half cans of beans, corn, and black pepper.

5. Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Let simmer while you complete the following step.

6. In food processor or blender, combine tomatoes and remaining beans.  (This is also a good time to clean your cutting board and knife).  Add to the pot.  If necessary add (up to) the remaining broth until desired consistency is reached.

7. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for at least 15 minutes (or until carrots are tender).  For best results, simmer for up to an hour.

8. Remove from heat, add pepper to taste, and enjoy!


  • For a thinner soup, add up to 4 cups stock.  You can also decrease the beans to 2 cans.
  • You can use broth in this recipe, but the soup will not be as rich.  If you choose to use broth, increase the spices to compensate, and simmer for at least half an hour.
  • Rice is a nice addition to the soup.  If you choose to add a cup of rice (after step 7), then be aware that you may need to increase the amount of liquid in the soup or it will be very thick.
  • If you rough chop your veggies, you will need to increase the cooking time.
  • You shouldn’t need to add any salt to the recipe, as stock tends to have more salt already in it (compared to broth).
  • This can easily be made on a weeknight—chop your veggies thinly so they cook quickly—if you would like a heartier version, chop your veggies coarsely and cook longer.

Black Bean Vegetable Soup PDF

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Mmmmm…roasted veggies. Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Even though we haven’t had the sunniest summer (compared to the beauty that was last summer, at least), there has been a great tomato crop this year from the Growing Garden (among other things!).  I wanted to feature one last recipe with these beautiful fruits that masquerade as veggies.

I read a few other blogs on a sporadic basis, and while looking for a recipe for this week I looked back into the August archive on Meals by Sheri (another WordPress blogger from MI) and found what I was looking for – an easy recipe that could feature a bounty of local produce.

Sheri’s Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce recipe called for Roma tomatoes, but I wanted to use the slicers from the Growing Garden.  I looked online to see if I should seed them or not – little did I know that this is apparently an age-old debate!  Half said to seed, the other half said not – I decided that since the tomatoes were truly vine-ripened and in season, I would risk not seeding them before preparing the sauce.  It was a fine decision – the seeds were so little and tender that they were not noticeable.   If you use Romas, you also don’t need to seed your tomatoes, but if you are preparing this recipe in the off-season and/or with “vine-ripe” tomatoes (which aren’t always ripened on the plant – sure, the vine is attached, but the vine’s not attached to the plant so it’s not exactly the same thing) you will want to seed them.

I was able to use all local, organic ingredients (with the exception of the green and red bell peppers – even in a good year we don’t see those grown locally for retail).  I stuck with Sheri’s original recommendations for the recipe, so I chopped up the tomatoes, (fresh) red onion, peppers, garlic, and carrots and threw them in my baking dish.  A drizzle of olive oil and dashes of Himalayan pink sea salt (in bulk at the co-op) and black pepper and I was done.

I’ll take a moment here to talk about salt – salt gets a bad rap, and I feel it does matter what kind of salt you choose to consume.  Regular table salt is depleted of its natural nutrients and isn’t a benefit to your diet.  Sea salt is much better because it isn’t as processed and is rich in minerals and nutrients, depending on what kind you get (Himalayan pink sea salt has over 80 nutrients in it and is very minimally processed).  That doesn’t give you license to dump piles of salt on your food, but it does mean that in moderation, salt (which your body needs to survive) can be beneficial.  One other salt note – it is far better to add salt to your dishes while you are cooking than to salt the food at the table (no matter what kind of salt you use).  When you cook with salt, your body treats it differently than in its raw form, and you probably won’t use as much either!

Anyway, I put my prepared veggies in the oven and roasted them for about an hour and 20 minutes.  Once they were done, I let them cool for about 20 minutes, since the next step entailed pureeing the veggies.  You never want to put piping hot food in a blender or food processor because you’ll get a shower of boiling hot veggies in the face!  Once I felt it was cool enough, I dumped it in the food processor and puréed it until it was slightly chunky (I added fresh basil at this point).  Once that was good, I poured it into a medium saucepan (I had about 4 cups) and added some dried oregano and a little more sea salt.  Once it was heated through, I took it off and let it sit overnight in the fridge  – I don’t know why, but tomato sauces tend to be better the next day.

Demo day dawned and I cut a fresh Avenue Bakery baguette to serve with the sauce (no GF bread option, but the sauce was good enough to sample without bread anyway!).  Customers absolutely LOVED the recipe and many people said that they would be promptly preparing the recipe themselves!  I’m pretty sure that it was my husband’s favorite recipe demo I have done because he came back to “try” some more many times and hinted that if I had any leftovers to be sure to bring them home to him!

So here is the fantastically easy and deliciously delicious pasta sauce recipe from Sheri!

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce


  • 5 or 6 large tomatoes, halved *
  • 1 medium-large red onion, peeled and cut into large, even chunks
  • 2 green peppers (or one red and one green), seeded and cut into large chunks
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 3/4” chunks (cut in half lengthwise if they are thick carrots)
  • 1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 1 –2 T fresh basil, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper (to taste)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Place all your prepared veggies and garlic into a large jelly roll pan.
  3. Pour olive oil over veggies and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss to coat (with your hands, your best kitchen tool!).  Turn tomatoes cut side up.
  5. Roast in oven  for about an hour, until veggies are soft , lightly browned, and the edges on the tomatoes have shrunken slightly in.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes.
  7. Add veggies and fresh basil to food processor and pulse until you have a chunky sauce.  Add a bit more olive oil if desired.  The sauce should be thick, not watery.
  8. Add sauce to a medium saucepan.  Simmer on low.  Add basil and oregano, and more salt and pepper if desired.  Heat sauce until warmed.
  9. Serve over your favorite pasta, or refrigerate and re-heat the next day.

Additions:  mushrooms, hot peppers, cheese, zucchini, etc.  Sauté veggies on the stove while your other veggies are roasting.  Add them to the saucepan after pureeing the sauce.

Serve with subtle garlic bread—Slice bread and brush with a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and toast in a 350° oven for about 5-8 minutes.  Turn bread slices over and finish toasting (another 5-8 minutes).  Just out of the oven, rub surface of bread with a peeled garlic clove.

You can freeze any excess sauce—make it easy for next time and pre-portion it before freezing!

* If you are using in-season tomatoes, there is no need to seed and peel them.  If you are using tomatoes in the off-season, you may want to seed them before roasting.   If you use Romas, there is no need to de-seed.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pasta Sauce PDF

Guacamole Picosa

Last week one of my co-workers told me about a recipe that I thought would be an interesting thing to sample – guacamole made with unripe, hard avocados.  Who would think such a thing was possible, and edible, right?  The recipe came from Ciao Thyme, and they know what they are doing, so I contacted them to see if I could give out their recipe (they obviously said yes!).

Now the first thing I should point out is that like a lot of fruit (well, technically an avocado is a large berry), they do have a different flavor and texture when they are not ripe.  I wanted to really test this recipe so I used the most rock hard avocados that we had.  My thinking was that this time of year avocados ripen a lot easier so regular guacamole is a no-brainer, but in the winter, it seems like it takes forever for them to ripen sometimes, and it would be great to be able to use them if you get impatient (or if you just wanted a new twist on an old stand-by)!

I’ll caution you that you need to be paying attention when preparing this recipe – hard avocados are just that – really hard.  Make sure you have a sharp knife that isn’t too large, and use proper knife handling skills.  Peeling and removing the seed from an unripe avocado is a little more time-consuming than ripe ones that just come apart, but it is worth it, so keep at it.  I used four small organic avocados when I prepared the recipe, but you could easily half or even double the recipe depending on your needs.

This is also a recipe that has many options to change the flavor profile, as well as the texture.  The key is getting the avocado as pulverized as possible, and then adding more ingredients from there!  Suggestions from customers and staff include:  onions, tomatillos, tomatoes, cilantro, and other hot peppers.

I used 3 small cloves of red garlic because it is so fragrant, and a jalapeno pepper (only one, I always make the recipes I demo on the mild side to appeal to the broadest range of tastes), and I think that all the options suggested would be great for future batches!  I made two batches for customers to try – one with Fresh Breeze 2% milk, and one with organic soymilk.  I was surprised that a good amount samplers preferred the soymilk version because of how the flavors blended, so if you are vegan it’s your turn to gloat – this is one of those recipes where it was the preferred choice!

I will also note that this guacamole didn’t turn brown on me, even after hours in the fridge and on ice – it stayed a beautiful, bright spring green!  Here’s a  tip though –  keep a seed or two when you are making (ripe avocado) guacamole, and then put it in the bowl of finished product – it will keep it green!  I’m not sure why or how this works…but it does!

Guacamole Picosa Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Guacamole Picosa


4 unripe small avocados

1-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely (to taste)

1-2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (to taste)

~ 1 1/2 c dairy (milk, ½ and ½, etc.) or milk substitute (rice, soy, etc.)

Salt (to taste)

Fresh lime


Tomatillo, chopped (to taste)

Onion, chopped fine

Tomatoes, chopped coarsely

Fresh Cilantro


1. Cut and de-pit avocados and put them in a blender/food processor.  You can slice them a few times to make them easier to blend.

2. Add half of the milk or milk substitute.

3. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper.

4. Blend until combined and mixture starts to get smooth.  Continue adding more milk until it reaches the desired consistency.

5. Remove from blender/processor and put guacamole in a bowl.  Add salt to taste—be sure you taste the guacamole with a sample of what you will serving it with—this could dictate how much salt you actually need to add.

6. Squeeze about half the lime into bowl and add optional ingredients to taste and mix.  Add more lime juice if necessary.

7. Serve and enjoy!

Note—if it doesn’t get as smooth as you would like in the food processor, throw it in a blender and it will get smoother!

June Meal of the Month – Summertime Pasta

Our June Meal of the Month, Summer-time Pasta, was submitted by Member Affairs Committee member Liz Evans.  It is a very simple dish that has a lot of options depending on your family’s preferences.  I won’t be demoing the recipe this month because I will be at our Board of Director’s Spring Retreat tomorrow, but I wanted to be sure to share the recipe!  It will also be available in both stores next week.

You can prepare this recipe gluten-free for almost the same price as regular pasta.


Summer-Time Pasta

1lb of your favorite pasta like angel hair or fettuccine

4 Roma tomatoes

handful of fresh basil

Olive oil to taste

1 ounce pine nuts, toasted

2 cloves minced garlic

3 ounces grated Parmesan


Boil enough water in a large pot to cook pasta.  While waiting for the water to boil, chop tomatoes to a half-inch, dice and mince garlic.

Cook pasta al dente.  Drain.  Return pasta to same pot and add chopped tomatoes, garlic and chopped basil.  Toss with olive oil and top with pine nuts and cheese.  Make sure to chop basil at the very last so that it will not turn black.

Optional Items (may bring cost over $10):

Italian sausage or turkey sausage

Garlic bread

Salad w/fresh seasonal greens

Fresh mozzarella as a Parmesan substitute

May Meal of the Month – Punjab Spinach Sauce with Tofu and Rice

A new month means a new Meal of the Month recipe from the Co-op’s Member Affairs Committee – this month it was submitted by Jean Rogers, with advice from local chef Robert Fong.

This was a very easy dish to prepare, as it is a “semi-homemade” recipe – you use one of the Ethnic Gourmet brand sauces*, but you add flair to it.  It only takes about fifteen minutes to toss together, and you are good to go.  Well…it does take an hour to cook the rice, but that is easy to wash up and toss in a pot!  If you are opposed to jarred sauces, or just want to try it from scratch, check out this recipe for Saag Spinach Sauce – you could then prepare the rest of the dish as instructed.  I haven’t tried this recipe myself, but it has very similar ingredients to the jarred variety.

Customers thought the dish was very tasty and my samples were gone before I knew it.  Note to self – make a much larger batch next time!

*11/2014 – We no longer sell Ethnic Gourmet Sauces, so use Jyoti Delhi Saag sauce as a replacement. It is made with spinach and mustard greens and adds a nice kick.


Sassy Sampler ©2010

Sassy Sampler ©2010

Punjab Spinach Sauce with Tofu and Rice

Recipe courtesy Jean Rogers


  • 1 1/2 c short grain brown rice
  • 4-6 T safflower or canola oil
  • 1 block tofu
  • 3 med garlic cloves, freshly sliced
  • 1 jar Ethnic Gourmet Punjab Saag Spinach Sauce (2014 – 1 can Jyoti Delhi Saag Sauce)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/4 –1/3 # bulk spinach (or approx 1/2 bunch spinach)
  • 1-2 large pinches of sea salt
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into four slices


  • 1/2—1 t chili powder or red chili flakes
  • Fresh cilantro


  1. Rinse and drain rice.  Combine rice and 3 c water (salt is optional) in a pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 60 minutes (until all the water is absorbed).  Turn off heat, fluff rice, and let it sit covered until you are ready to serve.
  2. Wait about 1/2 an hour, and then rinse spinach and break up larger leaves.  Cut tofu into 1/4” cubes and let it drain on a paper towel for several minutes.
  3. Put 1-2 T oil into a hot, medium-sized heavy-duty skillet.  Add the sliced garlic and a pinch of sea salt and cook for about 15 seconds.
  4. Stir in and lightly wilt spinach (about 30 seconds).  Add 2-3 T water.
  5. Remove spinach.  You can either reserve it in a bowl or  you can spread to desired shape on a warm plate.
  6. Remove water from skillet and add 3 T oil at medium heat.
  7. Stir in 1 t hot chili powder or red chili flakes (optional), 1/2 t cumin, 1/2 t curry.
  8. Stir in tofu and mix with spices for about a minute.
  9. Stir in full jar of Punjab/Delhi (or homemade) sauce and 1-4 T water.  Lightly simmer for a minute.
  10. Turn off heat, and let sauce sit for 1 minute.  Stir spinach back into sauce, or ladle sauce and tofu on top of cooked spinach.
  11. Serve with rice on the side or in a ring and a slice of lemon (highly recommended!).  Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro (optional).  For stronger flavor, increase salt and all spices.

Delhi Saag Sauce with Tofu and Rice PDF

Chilled (local) Cucumber Yogurt Soup

Spring has sprung, and that means more local produce is showing up every week.  Right now we have local, organic rhubarb, Napa cabbage, red mustard greens, asparagus (the only local organic asparagus that you can buy at any grocery store in town, I might add!), salad mix, and my favorite – English and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cucumbers from local grower Dominion Organics.

I sampled the English cucumbers last week for customers, so this week I had to pay attention to the Mediterranean cucumbers – as I have stated in the past, they are my most favorite local produce item (well, until the honeycrisp apples start showing up from Bellewood!).

As I was surfing the web for recipes, I ran across a bunch of cold soup recipes.  I know, cold soup sounds really yummy, huh?  Most everyone has heard of gazpacho, but a plethora of chilled soup recipes exist out there, and I found a couple more that I will prepare and sample this summer as we get more local produce in stock.    Just like any soup, these recipes can have a large range of ingredients, so I looked for one that I knew could be made with all local products once the growing season really gets going (except the lemon and olive oil – we’ll never get those locally due to our climate!).

This soup would be great on a hot summer day because it really is refreshing (and soooo easy to make!).  The flavor profile is similar to mint raita (cucumber/yogurt condiment – see our January Meal of the Month recipe), and it has a little bite – followed by creamy smoothness.  One of the recipes I found suggested serving the soup with a garnish of raisins, which I though would be really strange, but they add a nice touch of sweet and added texture to the soup, though they may not appeal to everyone!

This is a (mostly) one-pot meal – all of your ingredients go straight into the blender or food processor.  The recipe I adapted (from indicated that you should use raw garlic, but that flavor doesn’t appeal to everyone, so I did blanch the garlic for about 45 seconds before I added it to the blender.  I used a 4 cup blender, and the soup came out to about 4 1/2 cups, so it just fit – any more ingredients and I would have had to make it in two batches.

I used the Greek Gods non-fat yogurt, but any yogurt will work – I will make it with the local Grace Harbor Farms yogurt next time.  You can also use English cucumbers, but I don’t recommend regular cucumbers for this recipe as the flavor is different and you would have to de-seed them first.

Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup


1 1/2 c yogurt

1/2 c sour cream

1 t olive oil

3 large Middle Eastern/Mediterranean  cucumbers, peeled and grated

1 T fresh lemon juice

1/2 bunch mint leaves, chopped (about 1 c)

1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped (about 1/2 c)

2 cloves garlic, crushed and blanched (can also be used raw)

1/2 t salt (optional)

1/4 c raisins (optional)


1. Combine yogurt and sour cream in blender or food processor (fit with blade attachment)

2. Add olive oil and blend.

3. Add cucumber to blender/processor and  combine until smooth.

4. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine.

5. Add mint and dill, combine until smooth.

6. Add blanched garlic and combine until smooth.

7. Add salt if using.

8. Refrigerate soup after final blend, or serve immediately.

9. Serve garnished with about 1 T of raisins (if using), or leftover herbs.

This would be great served with lamb, or just some toasted pita bread.

To blanch garlic—

Heat a couple of cups of water in a small sauce pan until boiling.  Add crushed garlic cloves and allow to cook for about 45 seconds.  Remove garlic from water and let cool on cutting board.  This will mellow the heat of the garlic, and is not a necessary step if you are a raw garlic fan!