veggie feast

I love sharing sunsets.  Started doing it during my La Jolla sabbatical in the winter of 2017.  Kathy and I would end each day walking the 4 blocks to Windnsea Beach carrying a bag with some bread and cheese plus a bottle of wine (or 2) to wash it all down.  We’d sit on a rock, mingle with the revelers and watch the waves, listening to them crash on the rocks.  This being California, ol’ Sol was almost always up there, and we’d watch him take his dip for the day.  No two sunsets were the same, with a few clouds here and there changing the palette.  How can you not take a picture of something like that? I had a wide-angle lens I could clip to my phone, making each pic a little more spectacular.  I didn’t take long to figure out what I could do with the pictures.  It felt like a wonderful tease to email those California sunsets to all my shivering friends back in Michigan.  Once I found out how easy it was to populate that “to” e-mail line, more and more folks ended up on the receiving end.  It was nice to get some responses, usually just a single word comment, but sometimes a little more.  As I was out there for 3 months and seldom missed a night at the beach, perhaps a little boredom set in for some.  But I never got tired of it.  And I’ve kept doing it.  Whenever Kathy and I find ourselves by a body of water facing westward, I reach for my phone come sunset time. 

We’ve been back to Windnsea many times and are getting to make a habit of the Gulf, watching the day-ending event from the porch of our Madeira Beach house.  Then there’s Lake Michigan, and our Harbal aerie has a nice northwest view from our deck, even if the only water in the distance is in the Huron River and Traver Creek.  Here’s some examples:

The latest one (Madiera 1/18/23) brought a response from a friend I hadn’t seen for years.  Vanika was a fellow in my Division back in the 90s.  As smart as she was pretty, she had a quiet impish wit that made her a delight on rounds and in clinic.  I was pleased when they hired her on faculty then shocked and saddened when she left to help in her husband’s business (1).

Vanika’s husband Ahbi’s an architect and designer and had a hot product, something that can bring sunlight into a room through the roof without having to cut a whole skylight.  In the few times I’d talked to her since, she seemed happy with her decision.  So, it might have been a week after that last Gulf sunset that I got an e-mail from her, commenting how beautiful it was then asking into my wellbeing and doings.  Our back and forth turned into a notion we should get together.  Although going to her place, just a few miles away, would have meant some interesting surroundings and a fine home-cooked Indian meal, I offered up our surroundings and my cooking, which she thought was a great idea.  I immediately set my mind on a menu, but had to change course after her next e-mail. Seeking some details, she mentioned in passing that she and her husband were vegetarians.  I guess I’ll leave that lovely rack of lamb in the freezer, a whole half of the rib cage of some cute creature who just last year frolicked on EMMA Acres (2).  I love to cook ‘em up in my Pit Barrel smoker (3).  They taste as great as they look.  But no easy carnivore out for me this time.  I do know how to make some things that don’t have meat in them, and I’m pretty happy with the menus I’ve come up with.

But my first stab was a false start.  A soup course is always nice, and I had 2 monster butternut squashes I’d bought at the farmers’ market a couple months back.  So “explodey soup” it would be, a delightful squash soup that got its name from a kitchen incident the first time I made it, now a timeless family Thanksgiving tale (4). 

Here’s the recipe:

It went from oven to pot to Cuisinart to jar without incident.  Then I realized the morning of the dinner that I’d made the soup with chicken stock, as I always do.   That’s o.k.  Kathy and I will snarf up that squash soup in no time.

Of course, tales of these failures and missteps peppered our pre-dinner conversation.  Our guests’ enthusiasm seemed in no way diminished as we gathered for the for the feast.

I have enough curried parsnip soup in the fridge to provide a soup course.  No animal products were used in its manufacture.  I had vowed to shy away from any Indian recipes, but this was an English recipe.

The English appropriated “curry” early in their subjugation of the subcontinent, even though there’s no such spice in an Indian kitchen (5).

But before the soup, there’s the appetizer!  Not that I want to fill up my guests too quickly.  Maybe they’ll not get any of that squash soup, but they can eat the seeds!  Kathy toasted those up with a little oil and garlic, trying out a twist by first boiling the seeds in water salted with Jorge’s habanero salt (6). 

Then there’s the marinated mushrooms, so easy and good and always a winner (7).

After the soup come the rest of the vegetable dishes.

Simplest is my peppers and onions dish.  I dressed ‘em up with a little hoisin/basil glaze.  Recipe first, then picture.

The recipe for the next course calls it a “salad”, but it’s warm and pretty hearty.  Had to learn how to shred Brussels sprouts with my Cuisinart.  The morning after I made it, it looked kinda dull, so I chopped a red pepper.  Color and crunch.

One staple whenever my vegetarian brother-in-law and family come for Thanksgiving is mujadara, a Middle eastern dish to which we were introduced at the nearby Syrian Bakery (8) .  Lentils, rice, carmelized onions, cumin, garlic with maybe some yogurt on top.  Who needs meat?  But one of my other diners is presenting me with some dietary restrictions that have me modifying this recipe.  Kathy has signed on to this coached nutritional program.  What they offer sounds pretty keto to me, though they claim that’s not their focus.  Anyway, she doesn’t want to eat all that rice.  One of my first benefits of her plunge was an introduction to cauliflower rice (9).  Buzz a headful of florets in the Cuisinart – sure looks like rice – then throw it in a hot skillet with a little oil.  Very tasty.  That little nuttiness makes it more flavorful than regular rice.  Making this dish, I followed my on-line recipe’s suggestion to slice the onions with a mandoline (10). Kathy bought me this super-sharp finger-slicing precision chef’s tool a couple years ago and I’ve used it with trepidation.  It’s gleaming chrome blades always look hungry for a body part.  But I’ve always been pleased at the precision sliced products it produces, like its potato sticks for French fries (11).  But I bit the bullet and put each peeled onion into its holder – with its own sharp protuberances to hold the object to be sliced.  What emerged were things of beauty: perfect 1/8 inch thick rounds of onions.  Satisfaction to anal-retentive chefs everywhere (12). 


Now I’m trying to think of some compliment-fishing question to ask my guests: “Did you notice how all the onions in the mudjarrah were uniformly thick?”.  Now, if either of them was an engineer, I’d get an “amen”.  For now, I’m happy I didn’t have to reach for the band-aids.

Here’s what emerged, for this and the rest:


Here’s the recipe:

And here’s my original recipe, if you’re still a real rice afficionado:

I could stop here, as I didn’t serve any more vegetables.  Vanika brought some food over as she had threatened, so I should probably include those dishes.  We never touched them, and they sit in our fridge for another day.  There was no room at the table.  But my own last entry was to be a fruit based dessert!  Little peach cobblers I spiced up with some blueberries I had laying around.  As we got on, the remnants of the parsnip soup seemed dessert enough.  It is kinda sweet.  The cobblers will await another day.

Call it feng shui or hygge, with a fire roaring in the fireplace, and friends  (Ray (13), Paul (14), and Jon-Erik (15)) spinning us some good-ol-jazz on the stereo, the winter evening vibe was sublime.

While I hope that many of you will enjoy this lengthy treatise, it goes out especially to one of my most loyal readers, my African-American friend Rajiv.  Born and raised in Kenya of Indian parents, Rajiv clawed his way to Barnes Hospital where we met and both survived the ordeal.  Rajiv, as he will tell you without being asked, is a strict vegetarian.  He seldom misses a chance to chide me about eating the flesh of sentient beings, suggesting I consider doing otherwise.  With this post, I hope he’ll realize I can indeed do such a thing, if pressed.  But don’t look for me to cross over any time soon.


1. Sensitile.

2. Local Harvest.  EMMA Acres Farm.  9/21/21.

3. Pit Barrel Cooker Co.  RACK OF LAMB.  8/24/20.

4. Ike B.  explodey!  WordPress 2/6/22.

5. Uyehara M.  The real story of curry.  Food & Wine 9/14/22.

6. Jorge’shabit.

7. Ike B.  ‘shrooms!.  WordPress 3/15/21.


9. Love and Lemons.  How to Make Cauliflower Rice.

10. Wahn M and Chung Fegan M.  A Mandoline Does Things No Knife Can Do Knife Can Do.  bon appétit 6/1/22.

11. Ike B.  want fries with that?  WordPress 7/15/21

12. Saturday Night Live.  Anal Retentive Chef – Saturday Night Live.  YouTube

13. Ray Kamalay

14. LeLievre R.  Paul Klinger’s Easy Street Jazz Band marks 40 years of Dixieland.  The Ann Arbor News 7/11/10.

15. Jon-Erik Kelso.

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “veggie feast

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