Monday, 29 December 2008

Climate change thoughts made bite sized.

Climate change 2008 itsy-bitsy synopsis. Read it.

For those of you who don't know, or don't care: our so-called leaders keep on saying that we can make small incremental changes that will mitigate climate change. At least this is what the meetings at Poznan would have us swallow. Riiiiiiight. Just like you can staunch the flow of blood from a severed limb by applying small band-aids one at a time, slowly, and without too much effort. Moving to a more concrete and relevant example: you do not stop climate change by switching to energy efficient lightbulbs and by recycling the packaging from your overpackaged, unnecessary shit. The kind of half-assed and ineffective measures that people are taking in the name of "do what you can without actually changing any of the big stuff" are exactly that: half-assed and ineffective, at least on their own. If you don't care enough about your home (ie, the entire planet) to actually make real changes, then how can you expect real change to come about?

Let me try an analogy. The planet is warming, and weather is becoming more and more unpredictable at some rate. Let's call this rate Fucking Fast (FF). Now, we are in a metaphorical footrace with FF, and want to win. If we move Fucking Slow (FS), FF will outrun us, and we will lose. FF will not negotiate with us, and will not slow down (in fact, it's accelerating). Either we speed up enough to keep up, or we lose. Right now, we're losing, and refusing to speed up. And idiotically, we're pretending that we can win with such a strategy.

Frankly, the answers are simple. They probably cost money, and require a dip in our ridiculously high standards of living and consumerism in the developped world. But frankly, the planet will not negotiate with you (or me, or the president of the US, or the head of any multinational corporation, no matter how rich) on this one. Either we smarten up, or it might stop playing nice with us. Cutting into "economic growth" kinda sucks, but not having a habitable planet sucks worse. And like I said, while leaders sit on their thumbs at these international meetings "negotiating", they forget that the planet and it's climate won't negotiate. Either we put in less greenhouse gas than the planet can absorb, or we risk whatever it has in store for us when the surplus gasses stay in the atmosphere (where we put them, remember).

Here are some *real* changes you can make (along with your lightbulbs and your recycling):

Go vegan. Animal agriculture is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses. Plus, it takes more energy at every level to make animals and get them to your dinner plate than it does to make plants. And don't give me that "local meat" bullshit. If you really think that current levels of meat consumption can be sustained using local, small-scale operations, you're wrong.

Stop driving. Even if it means you have to get up a whole 15 or 30 minutes earlier to bus or subway to work. If you're just too damn important to waste 15 minutes of your valuable time, consider getting an ego reduction. If you live somewhere with no public transportation, organize some carpooling, and lobby for public transportation.

Buy less stuff. Buy used stuff. Fix your old stuff, or pay someone to fix it for you. Freecycle.

Vacation near your home. Go camping. Take a bus or train to a nearby city and explore it.

Pressure politicians at local and national levels. Lobby for bike lanes, better public transportation, and community recycling/composting . Ask that governments actually commit to taking action on climate-change related issues.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

christmas leftovers and vaguely persian pizza

Here are the munchies from before Christmas dinner. We had a traditional Christmas here in the Kitchendancing Cave. You know. Munchies (bread, olives, the dip below, and a white bean pesto dip) and poker, followed by a super late dinner, followed by sending the guests home with stockings full of breakfast for the next day (individual Ninja Ginga breads filled with marzipan, a clementine, Zimtsterne and some homemade truffles). One of the gambling dips got reincarnated into pizza tonight, and it was wonderful. The recipe said "serves 4", and I have concluded, based on the vast quantities of pate, that it seves four 18 year old boys who have been doing manual labour all day, and who aren't getting anything else for dinner. Needless to say, I had a lot of this pate left over. Pretty much anything spreadable can become a pizza sauce, and there's no reason not to scamper gleefully across culinary boundaries. So... this is vaguely persian pizza: Whole wheat pizza dough topped with a walnut/olive/angelica/pomegranite/herb pate (from my new Silk Road Cookbook, which is so damn sexy that it's nearly pornographic for a food demon like me), sliced japanese eggplants, and pomegranite seeds. I love leftovers. LOVE. We had this with a giant green salad and a bottle of Kelpie seaweed ale, and are building a roaring fire as I type. Mmmmmm. Lazy, comfy Saturday night at home.

improv pizza music: mose allison

Sunday, 21 December 2008

pois gris: the mystery legume of midwinter

Today I spent most of the day making truffles for the holidays. So by the end of the day, I knew that I'd be wanting something salty. I put on some field peas (pois gris) to soak last night, and let them simmer away for a good part of the afternoon while we truffled away as kind of a wierd, chocolate-addict's solistice meditation.

Some time ago, I got some pois gris from someone, and I was never quite sure what to do with them. I mean, I'd never seen them before, and I haven't seen them since. I tried a few things, and most of them were okay. But this, it turns out, is exactly what I should do, and if I come across pois gris/field peas again, I will most certainly repeat this dish: onion, garlic, soup stock (or white wine), a can of tomatoes, liquid smoke, oregano, thyme, nutmeg, pomegranite molasses (or a bit of maple syrup + a fair splash of lemon if that's easier for you), tvp, pois gris, kale, salt and pepper. Smoky goodness. I ate this on rice and it was lovely for winter, and perfect for a homey dark day spent getting ready for the holiday decadence ahead. For those of you who are wondering, I think any bean that keeps it's shape well would probably work for this, like navy, pinto, small fava beans, or even kidney beans.

Just in case you were wondering, this year's truffle flavours are: vanilla salt, balsamic vinegar, basil, toasted cumin. For the basil, I extracted some good dried basil in olive oil, and then used the oil.

dark, homey music for days when the sun sets in midafternoon: bach's coffee cantata (for the secularists among us)

Thursday, 18 December 2008

roasty toasty smoky parsnips

This was perfect for a dark rainy night...approaching the darkest of the year, in fact. I made chipotle parsnips using the recipe for carrot oven fries from Tofu for Two, doubling the chipotle and adding a squeeze of lime at the end. I topped that with blended firm silken tofu with lemon, salt, a bit of agave, espazote, nutritional yeast. The rice is brown basmati rice cooked with puy lentils and dark tvp (about 1.5 c rice, 1/2 c lentils and 1/2 c tvp...just throw it all in the pot together with some water) and then 2 chopped caramelized onions + toasted cumin seeds + salt mixed in at the end. The salad is mixed bitter greens + pears + a dressing of miso mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper. I love this salad dressing. I make it all the time. It takes about ten seconds, and tastes like heaven. Before I discovered miso mustard, I just used whatever mustard I had around, usually just plain non-dijon (because the greens are bitter enough without the added heat of the dijon, though go for it on a milder salad). The dinner was a wonderful blend of spicy, sweet, salty, vinagery and starchy. There are lots and lots of leftovers, which is good, because we need lunches for work, and lentil rice is wonderful cold. Just add some chopped raw bell peppers or carrots or whatever other veg you have lying around, and a squeeze of lemon (maybe some chopped cilantro or parsely if you have it on hand...I don't, and I'm not going out in the rain to get it) and it's magically lentil salad.

I filed this under quickie even though it takes a while to cook, because really, you don't actually have to do anything while the parsnips bake and the rice cooks. Read a book. Have a wee dram of whiskey. Listen to music.

Monday, 15 December 2008

pistachio rosewater cookies

...because being vegan is all about depravity, um, I mean deprivation.

I give you proof that I am capable of branching out: Pistachio Rosewater cookies without any chocolate at all.

Shockingly, we actually did "recipe R&D" for this. Like, several iterations. And yes, made pistachio flour. Yum! These are pretty much the perfect tea cookies. They're crumbly and not too sweet but have lots of lovely delicate flavours. Here, rosewater, lime and pistachio. Though they also have maple, vanilla and cardamom which you don't really taste distinctly, but they do make the cookies surprisingly complex for a damn cookie. Not the cheapest, or the fastest, or even remotely good for you, but the yummiest. They're a great end to a fancy persian or indian dinner, and honestly are interesting enough to hold their own as a full dessert course. We suggest mint and tarragon tea, or black tea, or turkish coffee (with cardamom). I have this fantasy of serving them with lime sorbet. And as an interesting side note, I think each cookie actually contains more pistachios than does an equal volume of pure pistachios. They're kinda the sugar syrup of pistachios. Plus, they're a vaguely alien-ish green colour. Bonus. This really is a rave, because I can usually take or leave cookies, but I ate several of these in a row. And then had more the next day for breakfast. And that was the first try....

We also found that this cookie dough was highly addictive raw. This is my official attempt at "raw vegan", though I suppose that our interpretation of it is somewhat unconventional. Does that matter if it's soooo yummy?

The goods (makes about a bazillion small cookies, and trust me, you don't want big ones):

2 c white flour
1 3/4 c "pistachio flour" ie ground pistachios. use that blender! (almost 2c pistachios before grinding)
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1c whole pistachios (in addition to the ground ones)
1 tsp lime zest
3/4 c + 2tbs maple syrup
1/2 c light olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
5-6 tbs rosewater
1 1/2 tbs lime juice

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together. Mix wet into dry. Form into balls with a teaspoon and flatten a bit with your fingers on a greased cookie sheet. Yes. These are meant to be quite small cookies. Bake at 350F for 15 mins, then reduce heat and bake at 325F for a further 15 mins. Let cool a few minutes, then remove from cookie sheets and cool completely. These shouldn't be very brown at all. If you see them browning, drop the heat earlier. NO BROWNING! You don't want to ruin all those pistachios, now do you? You want them to get dry-ish, but not brown. Like miniature green alien pistachio rosewater biscotti, okay? They'll seem underdone when you take them out, but they're not.

Note that you can easily half the recipe to make it less expensive, or if you don't have much use for a bazillion cookies. I guess you could also sub in almonds for some or all of the pistachios, but that would sort of defeat the point, now wouldn't it?

"oh, these are just some simple cookies i whipped up in no time at all" music: Old-fashioned girl. Eartha Kitt.

Monday, 8 December 2008

simple lentils and rice

I've had a few requests now for more "everyday food". Here's a staple. Simple lentils over (insert whatever vegetable needs using) rice.

Rice: dry roasted black cumin seeds, leeks, brown basmati, pinch of salt. I just cook the leeks in the rice directly. If you want to be fancy, saute the leeks first. Tonight I' not feeling fancy. Nope, not even a little. I might even be dining in my jammies...Simple lentils: Cook yellow or red lentils with turmeric and salt. When they're done, turn heat off, and add chopped fresh ginger and garlic to taste and some lemon juice. C'est tout. A friend of mine made me this this weekend, and it's so simple, and so perfect. Eat this with green salad or steamed broccolli, or just on it's own if you want a big plate of comfort. You can also eat these lentils over potatoes, or any other grain. You can steam up other veg (I just happened to have some leeks around) and add that. You can add some chopped tomatoes and water or stock and you have lentil soup. You can dress this up with chillis, cilantro or parsley, roasted tomatoes and some good olive oil or slices of pickled lemon if you want and you have some quite fancy lentils (for nights when you feel quite fancy). See? Anyone can do this. And the leftovers make great lunch (use as a dip for bread, or eat the whole lentil rice combo cold, it's yummy that way too).

uncomplicated music: johnny cash.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

red bean swirly buns

Life has been stressful lately. Bordering on insane, really. Consequently, I've been making food that's relatively easy in that it doesn't take much time, but that's really colourful and pretty and comforting. And what could be more comforting than warm homemade bread?

These don't take long to make. Only a few minutes to put them together the night before, assuming you have some red bean paste lying around (which we all should have, really), and the next morning they only take about 20 mins to bake. Mmmmmmmm.

Green tea red bean swirly buns. Apparently I just can't get enough of the Suessian-looking breads lately. A special but not sicky-sweet weekend breakfast. Bread part: whole wheat flour, a little bit of sugar (maybe a tbs for these 6 ginormous buns), yeast, salt, matcha, okara mixed with some water and almond extract. Mix, knead, roll into a giant rectangle. Cover with red bean paste (you can see this in the first picture), which is just aduki beans mashed with sugar and a smidge of salt... I like this not too sweet, so I make my own, but you can buy it ready-made if you want. Roll up like cinnamon buns and let rise overnight (second picture). The next morning, bake 5 mins at 220C, then 15 min at 180C, take 'em out of the oven, top with almond icing (soy or almond milk, icing sugar, almond extract) and devour (third picture, where you can see that I accidentally started devouring before remembering to take a photo).

Note: these aren't cake, or even remotely cinnamon bun like in texture. They're not very sweet (unless you drown them in icing), but they are very filling. They're dense and quite moist and yummy, and (without the icing) would go perfectly well with soup or a salad (I might have had one with miso soup for dinner later in the weekend). In fact, I suspect that these buns are what would happen if german-japanese baking ever happens.

A quick note on my obsessive use of okara in baked goods: I use it because I have it lying around. You can pretty much always sub in soy yogurt, or blended tofu. Or, if you want, soured soy milk (add lemon juice to soy milk until it curdles). You can also use ground almonds in water to make a yogurt-consistency paste, if you're so inclined.Note that these will make your baking slightly denser than the okara will, so you may want to step up the sugar (yeast food) and yeast. In this recipe, I have an okara-free version of the dough here, which just uses soy milk, and which makes a less cakey bread.

A quick note on the quick note: A good trick to make vegan baked goods rise more is to add a bit of baking soda (like half a tsp) to the dry ingredients, and then 2tbs of vinegar to the wet. Don't use this trick with yeasted breads, only with stuff you're putting in the oven soon after you mix wet and dry ingredients

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

calling in gay, and eating noodles.

This is a great idea, especially in light of the rampant homophobia that was on display in the United States, what with voting to ban gay marriage all over the place. ..*ahem* Sheesh. The way people are fighting it, you'd think we were talking about *mandatory* gay marriage... for everyone. Now, even though I've always secretly wished that homophobes were literally afraid of me (which would get me a lot more space on public transportation, and would ensure that I had a WHOLE BIKE LANE all to myself as terrified heterosexuals threw themselves out of my path in fear and panic), they aren't. Even though I know that my life is a frikin' (vegan) cakewalk compared to the lives of queers just a few years ago, so-called progressive places (like my ex-country Canada) didn't just hand over rights to queers because they like us and actually think we should have them. Nope. They had to be ordered to do so in court. And we still don't get the same treatment as everybody else. For example, how ridiculous would it be if big old queers everywhere got to vote on whether or not we thought heterosexuals should be allowed to adopt? What if we said no, and instead voted to restrict the rights of heterosexuals, but still expected them to contribute time and money and support to society, just as if they were equal? See? See how ridiculous that is? Frankly, I think it's worth throwing a bit of a temper tantrum occasionally over this. (Actually, I think it's worth a lot more than that). So my darling American readers, on December 10th, call in Gay, and if you can't (or if you work for an employer who actually gives you the same benefits as heterosexuals or is really awesome, such that you'd just be being kinda nonsensical), don't buy anything. Keep your big, fat, gay dollars (or pounds) in your pocket for the day.

You know what? I don't even want children. But, like the dude in that Monty Python film, I want the RIGHT to have children. I also, for the record, have no intention of getting married, and have problems with the very idea of giving special rights to couples, but if you're going to recognize couply relationships, it should be all couples. Not having (or adopting) a kid or getting married or whatever should be a choice, not a restriction placed on you because of who you happen to get nekkid with.

Here, if you need to comfort yourself, need to comfort your friends, or just need energy for more hot, out-of-wedlock queer sex... Soba noodles. Easy, yummy, and oh-so-slurpy. On the noodles: dried mushrooms, kibble (ahem, tvp), pumpkin and chard, simmered in water, soy sauce, wine and a bit of sugar. That's it. Simple. Yet extremely Gay.

queerly: I wish I was him. Bikini Kill.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Eat your leftovers.

I hope all the americans out there had a lovely thanksgiving. I'm not american, and I didn't celebrate american thanksgiving, but I do have a lot of fancy dinner parties. I kinda got to thinking about big fancy dinners, and wanted to remind you that almost half of our edible food ends up in the garbage. Please use your leftovers, okay? Being wasteful isn't a sign of celebration, it's a sign of stupidity and entitlement, neither of which is worth celebrating.

Now, on to the food:

The best part about weekends is having time to do stuff like this for breakfast.

Green tea and chestnut swirls: Green tea bread dough (spelt flour, matcha, sugar, salt, yeast, soy milk, little tiny bit of almond extract) with chestnut filling (okara, chestnut flour, maple syrup). I make the buns the night before and let them rise overnight. My kitchen is cold, so I just leave them on the counter, but if you live somewhere warm, or keep your heat on at night (and dammit, you'd better have a good reason for that one), you could let them rise in the fridge. This is a picture of the night before. I fogot to take a photo the next morning. The next morning, I bake them and have hot buns for breakfast. Served with icing (icing sugar, soy milk, almond extract). I like these because it looks like Dr.Suess made my breakfast.

For the leftovers, make bread pudding: cut up the stale bread or buns in chunks and soak overnight in just enough soymilk to cover them, with a tbs or two of flax seeds and some sugar (if you want it). The next morning, add almonds if you want 'em, dump the whole goopy mess into a greased cake pan and bake it up for breakfast. It will take about half an hour at 180C, which is just enough time to have a cup of coffee and/or make out with your weekend guest (brush your teeth first if you go for the second option). Once the pudding is done, sprinkle with matcha and/or sugar. You can do this with any stale bread, and it's especially good with these or old cinnamon buns/raisin bread. You can add chopped up pears and walnuts and a bit of cardamom (to plain white or whole wheat bread), chopped up apples (to cinnamon buns) or slices of bananas (to anything, as far as I'm concerned, but it's strikingly good with any kind of nutty bread), or if you're feeling really decadent, you can add chocolate chips to the puddings before baking them. Go crazy. There are no rules!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

cold nights, warm soup

We spent day outside in the uncharacteristically sunny (but very cold) weather...until the sun set around 4. Then we came home and had this warming mushroom soup. I had some black eyed beans soaking, so I put them on to boil with two finely chopped onions and some bay leaves. When they were just about ready, I threw in a few cloves chopped garlic, some marmite, some white wine, sage and thyme and a whack of dried wild mushrooms, along with a bunch of leftover cooked brown rice. Then, just before serving it, I added a dash of tamari and a few drops of truffle oil. That's it. We ate it with salad (mustard greens, cabbage, fennel, pear in maple syrup/mustard/wine vinegar and pepper). This is really easy. You can use pretty much any combo of white bean and cooked grain you have lying around (wheat berries or barley are yum too). The only thing that you really *need* are dried mushrooms, or if you're lucky, a whole lot of fresh wild mushrooms. You don't actually need truffle oil, but if you're lucky enough to have some, use it for crying out loud. There is a special place in culinary hell for those who let truffle oil go rancid because they're continually "saving it for something special". What the hell are you waiting for? Oh, and go easy on the marmite/tamari, you don't want it to ovewhelm the other can always add more at the end of cooking, along with some black pepper if your mushrooms aren't *ahem* very good. If you have some fresh parsely lying around, I'd strongly suggest stiring a good handful of chopped parsley in at the end, but I didn't have any and it was just delish anyways, thank you very much.

warm, comforting music: jazz lounge

Also, from a few days ago when I was far too stressed to post (or make anything requiring more than about 10 minutes of cooking), a superquick dinner. You see, I have a pumpkin problem. I love pumpkin. LOVE IT. And I accidentally bought one that was too big. I couldn't stop myself. It was just so... orange. So I baked it up (along with a few potatoes and some onions, cuz it never hurts to have those around) on the weekend and put in in the fridge and ate pumpkin stuff all week, which turned out to be a great thing, since I hardly had time to eat this week, let alone cook, I was so damn busy. This is from the last day of pumpkin. This is buckwheat crepes (buckwheat flour, ground flaxseeds, soured soy milk, water, salt) filled with mashed pumpkin, baked onion, nutmeg, pepper and nooch. Side of greens with *lots* of garlic and lemon.

music: guten tag. wir sind helden.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Ume yum

More Japanse/Italian delights from the Scottish veg box.

Whole wheat pasta with baked veg (okra, cabbage, onions) and ume sauce: ume paste, lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, shiso, salt. It ain't pretty, but it is yummy. And fast. And plummy. Fast and plummy are important when you're halfway through NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo music: My baby loves a bunch of authors. from Moxy Früvous.

Friday, 7 November 2008

fusion gone horribly right

Japanese/Italian dinner party. Weeeeheeeee!

the menu
Green tea polenta with edamame and aduki beans. Pine nut/ume/basil rolls. Caramelized carrots with fancy-pants mustard. Blanched daikon with miso and mirin. Salad. Sliced plums. Green tea tiramisu. Japanse whiskey (Nikka).

For the green tea polenta (serves 8): 3c polenta (not quick cooking). Water, salt. Start cooking as usual for polenta, using about 3c water. While this is going on, make 1 cup strong green tea, preferably genmaicha (green tea with brown rice). When the polenta is about halfway cooked, add 1/2- 1c. sake and let it absorb that. Continue adding water until it's almost done. The trick is that you want the polenta to absorb the tea, but not cook long after you add the tea, or it will get bitter. Then add the tea (strained). Cook until done. Pour into a pan and pop it in the fridge overnight. Have cooked aduki beans on hand, and some shelled edamame. About 30mins before serving, slice up the polenta, schmear it with olive oil and bake. While it's baking, fry up a chopped leek and make another cup of double strong green tea. When that begins to brown, deglaze with sake. Add the edamame and some salt. Turn the heat down and simmer. Let the green tea cool. About 5 mins before serving, stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into the green tea, and then pour that into the leek/edamame mix. Heat until the sauce thickens. Add cooked aduki. Place the polenta on a serving dish and pour the bean/tea mix over it. Sprinkle with a few crushed tea leaves.

For the pine nut/ume/basil rolls, which are kind of like asian pesto sushi: Soak 1c pine nuts in just enough water to cover overnight. Drain. Blend along with a bit of fresh ginger and some salt. Chill. If it's still too liquid to scoop, stir in pulverized almonds until the paste is thick enough to hold it's shape when you scoop it. Spread on soy paper sheets, then add fresh basil leaves and some chopped up ume, using the same technique that you would use if you were making miniature sushi rolls where the pine nut spread is the rice and the basil leaves/ume are the filling. Chop up the rolls into 6-8 pieces per roll. You want to make these small because they're pretty rich and intense. The soy wrappers (used in place of nori sheets) are called soy wrappers, and are from a company called yamamotoyama, and I'd never seen them before, but I'm a fan now. They weren't blurry in real life. I just had to show you the pretty colours.

The carrots are really just caramelized carrots with some fancy mustard added. The green tea tiramisu is from My Sweet Vegan.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I might be a party pooper

...but voting overwhelmingly to deny gay people the same rights as straight people takes the veneer of "progress" off electing a black president. One step forward, several steps back.

Anyway. No time for deep political commentary here. Must go have hot, out-of-wedlock queer sex. Over and over. Bye!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

try a little priest...

Ahem. We interrupt Ducky's Modern Medieval to bring you: Halloween! My favorite holliday of the year. Why can't we do this every month? My costume this year had a culinary component. The Demon Barber of Fleet Street presents: PIES!

Filling: 2 onions, chopped. 1 cup or so of walnuts, also chopped. About a pound of mushrooms, also chopped (are you seeing a theme with the chopping here?) and tvp (it comes pre-chopped, sadly). Fry everything in your best olive oil except the tvp. Add sage, thyme, a bit of garlic and more black pepper than you really think is advisable. This thing depends on the pepper, so don't be shy. Add tvp and enough soup stock to cover, or water + a good tablespoon of marmite. Make pies. Dress up like Sweeney Todd. Sing. Eat.

If you replace the tvp with cooked puy lentils and then blend it all up, this makes a killer pate. Oh yes.

I used the pastry recipe from Tofu for Two, but I used water instead of soy milk. Usually I hate making pastry, but this was nearly painless.

music: uh... do I really have to tell you?

I also couldn't resist posting this turnip soup. It was fast and oh-so-autumnal and yummy

Onions, turnip, water, garlic, cumin, bay leaf, salt (cook these) and when the turnip is done add: lemon, saffron, chopped bok choy and heat through but don't make the bok choy mushy. Garnish with pomegranite seeds. That's it. Fast and simple.

No aplogies for the short and near-incoherent post. I'm doing NaNoWriMo and still have a job, so all of my grammar is going towards those at the moment. Deal with it. The soup is still the yum. What more do you want?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

armoured turnip!

Aaaand the prize for best named recipe so far goes to.... armoured turnips: baked sliced turnips with white bean boursin (made with urad dal, because some of us have managed to run out of white beans even though we could have sworn we had a giant jar of them somewhere) from the Uncheese Cookbook. Basically layers of sliced turnip, cheese and the ubiquitous cinnamon/ginger/clove combo. These are clearly the predecessor to scalloped potatoes. I ate them on kasha with greens. I will do this again with pumpkin or kabotchka squash or sweet potatoes. Something bright orange.

I was a little apprehensive about anything called "boiled sallet", but I tried this, staying remarkably close to the actual instructions, minus the egg: boiled broad beans and leeks (I figure anything green counts here) drained and tossed with with oil, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon and currants. This was remarkably yummy and comforting on polenta. The recipe calls for chopped boiled egg and harps on about how important it is, so I added an okara burger (okara, capers, liquid smoke, garlic, cilantro, chickpea flour, tamari) to my plate.

Here's what I followed:
Source [A new booke of Cookerie, J. Murrell]: Diuers Sallets boyled. Parboyle Spinage, and chop it fine, with the edges of two hard Trenchers vpon a boord, or the backe of two chopping Kniues: then set them on a Chafingdish of coales with Butter and Uinegar. Season it with Sinamon, Ginger, Sugar, and a few parboyld Currins. Then cut hard Egges into quarters to garnish it withall, and serue it vpon sippets. So may you serue Burrage, Buglosse, Endiffe, Suckory, Coleflowers, Sorrel, Marigold leaues, water Cresses, Leekes boyled, Onions, Sparragus, Rocket, Alexanders. Parboyle them, and season them all alike: whether it be with Oyle and Uinegar, or Butter and Uinegar, Sinamon, Ginger, Sugar, and Butter: Egges are necessary, or at least very good for all boyld Sallets.

Medieval food is not pretty. But is is yummy. Things I've noticed so far: I miss chilli, and it's amazing how different food is without tomatoes (I'm still eating the ones that come in my vegbox, but I've not been buying extra ones, because they're a new world food, and so aren't in any of the medieval recipes). Also, I think I may end up with a cinnamon addiction and start adding raisins/figs to everything by the end of the modern medieval project. Quinces are underappreciated, and I love them.

Music that is also not pretty and yes yummy: The pubcrawlers.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Pease porridge hot...

Comfort food at it's finest, as people have known for..oh... 5 or 600 years, at least.

Boil split peas, onions, basil, thyme, cinnamon, a smidge of dried ginger, some cloves, and a bay leaf in Rauchbier (smoked beer...which is an excellent way to sub that smoky richness that french canadian pea soup has. I find liquid smoke just doesn't measure up for this one. It's just too... thin... for lack of a better word). Salt. Nothing could be easier. Eat with irish soda bread (whole wheat spelt flour and oat flour at about a 3:1 ratio, baking soda, salt, soured soy, soy milk with vinegar). We also had some baked cauliflour with this, both the flower and the big leaves. Just pop it in the oven with a little olive oil and salt while the bread bakes.

dance warmly to something much more modern: musique pour 3 femmes enceintes

Friday, 24 October 2008

Oh the cinnamon!

Continuing on with my Modern Medieval project, here are three things I made. I'm getting the hang of this stuff in terms of techniques and seasonings. Basically, everything is either a stew or a pie. Salt was hard to come by, but sugar (honey...or in my case, agave and maple syrup) were not. My flat smells like a combination of a persian restaurant and my parents house at Christmas. This is fun.

Stewed Pumpkin.
2 large onions, chopped, with half a pumpkin, also chopped and some tvp. baked in water, marmite, white wine, sage, pepper, liquid smoke. When it's done, add salt and saffron, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. We ate this over spelt pasta, with a tomato and parsely salad on the side.

bastardized from:

10. Gourdes in Potage. Take young Gowrdes; pare hem and kerue hem on pecys. Cast hem in gode broth, and do þerto a gode pertye of oynouns mynced. Take pork soden; grynde it and alye it þerwith and wiþ yolkes of ayren. Do þerto safroun and salt, and messe it forth with powdour douce.

- Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.

Cinnamon Soup.
...veganized, with tofu! and green! And holy shit, will I ever be making this stuff again! YUM.

Ahem. Tofu marinated overnight in: soy sauce + water, nutritional yeast, oregano, ground coriander, finely chopped garlic and onion, light miso. This is what i do to tofu that's still edible but definitely past it's prime. If you want a richer marinade, add a good swig of balsamic vinegar and a dollop of mustard to the marinade. Bake or fry this while you make the soup. If you fry it, dredge it in flour first. I usually bake it because I'm a lazy ass and I don't like fried stuff (which I suppose makes me a weird lazy ass).

Soup (for one):
1/4 - 1/2 cup ground almonds
1 person worth of veg broth or water + marmite (dude, i have no idea how big your soup bowl is. make your own decisions here)
a bit of leek, finely chopped
1 tsp cinnamon. heaping if you have a big soup bowl.
a smallish bit of grated ginger
sprinkle o ground cloves
sprinkle o anise seeds
chopped broccoli ( broccoli is so fabulous that i'm sure medieval cooks would have added it to everything if it had been available.)
salt if you need it (check AFTER you add the marinated tofu, cuz it's quite salty)

dry roast (brown) ground almonds. add everything else except the broccoli and simmer until thick. add broccoli and simmer until it's done right (slightly crunchy). Add tofu. Eat. I will definitely make this again. Possibly with chickpeas and eggplant instead of tofu and broccoli. Either way: winner. I had some bread and tomatoes (aka "a tomato sandwich") with this, but I think it would be amazingly good with cooked kasha added to it. Just a hunch.

bastardized from the original (and modern omni) versions at:

Greens (no's just a pile of kale on mashed spuds). I was cinnamoned out, so I made this:

Kale and leeks, simmered in veg broth and pepper, drained, mixed with nutmeg and okara ricotta (okara, vinegar, agave, salt, miso). On mashed potatoes. Potatoes had not yet been introduced, but they're in my veg box. I figure that mashed is about right, since most medieval recipes I've seen serve the main dish on some sort of stewed grain gruel (like rice pudding or soupy polenta).

...again from

Poree de cresson

PERIOD: France, 14th century | SOURCE: Le Viandier de Taillevent | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: Stewed cress and chard, tossed with cheese


153. Poree de cresson: To Make Stewed Cress. Take your garden cress and boil it (var: parboil it), along with a handful of chard, then chop it up fine, sauté it in oil and then put it to boil if you so wish. On non-fasting days (it may be cooked) either in meat broth, or in butter, or with cheese added, or just plain without putting anything in it, should you like it that way. It should be salted to taste, and the garden cress should be well culled. It is good against gallstones.

- Scully, Terence, ed. Le Viandier de Taillevent. An Edition of all Extant Manuscripts. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1988.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

i wanna be a chocolate god post 8: booze

When I drink whiskey, my brain often searches through my catalogue of chocolate tastes and pairs it with a chocolate. I don't know why. It just does. I told this to Spanky and....

a few months later, Spanky and I had a whiskey and chocolate tasting evening at our place. Spanky knows alot about whiskey. I know a lot (perhaps too much) about chocolate, mostly through a good decade of dedicated tasting. Soooo... one night, Spanky and I went through his whiskeys and tasted and smelled them, and I wrote down which chocolates I thought would go with each one. Then I hunted down these specific bars to go with these specific whiskeys, using mail order, calling in favours from friends in Germany and France, and well... walking down the street to Coco of Bruntsfield. Because Spanky and I are very, very serious at all times, we named each of the pairs. In cases where the whiskey comes from the Whiskey Society, I've given you the cask number.

Some of the pairings are whiskeys and chocolates that are very similar (such as the "One note wonders"), while some are linked by a single aspect of each of their tastes (such as "Vanilla Sex"). The most interesting one, and the one I was most proud of, is a case of the two complementing each other so that the combination of tastes is quite different than you'd expect based on the two individual tastes ("Rum Punch", but see also "the old man and the sea").

Enjoy. In all cases, our clever name for the pairing is in red, followed by the name of the whiskey and then the chocolate. My comments follow, and then the "official" description of the whiskey. As usual, in feeding your chocolate addiction, don't use slave chocolate. Most of the chocolates here are from small companies that deal more or less directly with producers.

Whisky-Chocolate Tasting

One-note wonders
Nikka Black AND Pralus – Madagascar 75%

Both the chocolate and the whiskey are clean, single tastes. The chocolate has a strong red fruit taste that hits the front of your tongue and then just disappears with almost no aftertaste. Very minimalist on both counts, and they go together very well. Pralus has really seduced me over the past few years by making such consistantly fabulous chocolate where they really know how to bring out the character of each single origin bean.

Whisky Magazine Tasting Notes
Nose: Fresh pear, then richer notes quickly develop. Custard, apricot, touch of hazelnut. Hint of pine. Delicate smokiness in the back. Caramel with water.
Palate: Sweet and flowing. Well balanced. Nutty. Drying on light oak.
Finish: Medium, firm but retains sweetness. Ginger.
Comment: Easy-going, well-balanced. To be enjoyed as a refreshment with water and ice.

The Prince and the Pauper
Rosebank 1990 Gordon & MacPhail AND Hachez 88%

Rosebank is really well balanced, and a fairly snooty fancy whiskey. I love it, even when I'm not feeling snooty or fancy. Hachez has this mellow, almost peanut buttery, fatty feel to it and is remarkably un-sweet without being in the least bitter. I believe the word is "comforting". One of those rare grocery-store gems. Each of them makes the other seem more themselves, yet they somehow work together.

JMWB p. 183

The Society consensus pairing
Single Malt Whiskey Society 46.17 AND Chocolate Society 85%

A tribute to the dangers of trying to please everyone. A perfectly good, though not terribly exciting whiskey paired with a perfectly good, though not terribly exciting chocolate.

46.17 Comfort in a glass

This distillery, 4 km south of Elgin, is next-door to Mannochmore and a dark grains plant. This pale gold dram is from a refill barrel. The nose has pear, apricot, strawberry starbursts and apple flapjack, along with some toffee and salt. It has an interesting, almost sneeze-inducing dustiness reminiscent of cocoa powder or honeysuckle pollen. With water, the nose is chalky and lemony, like Swizzler lollipops. The palate is sweet, hot, juicy and salty, reminding one of salted melon, gooseberry fool and Black Forest gateau. Reduced, it has apple, ginger cake and brandy snaps. A well balanced, pleasantly comforting dram.

Vanilla sex
Glenmorangie Cellar 13 AND Bachhalm Shitake

Both have a nice undertaste of vanilla, and the muskyness of the mushrooms keeps the whole thing from getting too cloying. Plus, mushroom are so... I'm gonna leave it at musky... Bachhalm also uses super-silky chocolate (in that luxurious super silky underwear kinda way).

Notes on the whiskey:
JMWB p. 120

The particularity of this selection is the warehouse where it was matured: cellar 13, close to the ocean.
Aging happens in bourbon casks for 10 to 12 years.
The colour is pale yellow. The nose is sweet with wood and fresh sandal, vanilla and wild menthol hints.
The mellow taste recalls malt, toffees, vanilla and honey.
The very long juicy finish recalls the fragrance of the buttercup.
Normally, Cellar 13 is only available in tax free shops

The Balancing Act
Highland Park 12 yr AND Dunkles Gold Cacao de Cologne with Salt

Sweet and salty. Dunkles Gold is a small chocolate shop in Cologne that I had the good fortune to happen upon when I lived there. They guy who runs the place is very, very knowledgeable about his chocolate, and has exquisite taste. His house bars make me so very happy. They're quite sweet, though, and I find that a little sprinkling of salt rounds it all out nicely.

JMWB p. 133

Peter Pan
SMWS cask 116.12 Yoichi 21 yr “Tinned Peaches and Tobacco Pipes” AND Coco dark with rosemary.

Both the whiskey and the chocolate are playful yet oh-so-grown up. The Yoichi really *does* taste of tinned peaches and a faint whiff of pipe. It's all very "Daddy's study after dinner", which is odd, because my dad didn't have a study, nor did he smoke a pipe. ... Coco of Bruntsfield is a chocolate shop here in Edinburgh that makes divine flavoured bars (as well as good bars of plain chocolate). They use a good quality chocolate, but their stuff tends to lean towards a bit sweet for my tastes, so I favour the bars that incorporate a savory element, such as this rosemary one, which is my current favorite from their selection of flavoured bars. I go there every saturday that I'm in town, for a chocolate and an espresso. Life is so much better if you spend 30 minutes a week completely surrounded by chocolate, no? They also get kudos for having a "suitable for vegans" list posted on their wall. So anyone who wants to buy me vast amounts of chocolate can do so there without having to read labels....

Tinned peaches and tobacco pipes Cask No. 116.12
The only distillery on Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, was built by Nikka’s founder, the legendary Masataka Taketsuru in 1934. It produces a range of styles of malt whisky for use in its blends, and this bottling is highly phenolic. The immediate scent is of tinned peaches and charcoal scattered with lavender. There is lilac blossom in the background, and traces of bath oil, so the taste at full strength – which is like chewing charcoal or licking the bowl of an old pipe – comes as something of a surprise. Water develops the fragrant theme, with floral notes, scented honey and sugar soap; slightly waxy, and only a hint of tar. This passes across into the flavour at reduced strength: a nice smooth mouthfeel, pleasant balance of sweet and vinegar-sour, and only an ash-like trace of smoke. A common descriptor for this whisky is ‘welcoming’.

The Comfy Chair
Ardbeg 10 yr AND Luento Santoro Grand Cru Blend South America

Ardbeg 10 is an easy, comforting, whiskey. Luento Santoro make the best blended bars I've ever tasted. In fact, their blends are so genius, I prefer them to their single origins. Both the whiskey and the chocolate are really complex, but not overwhelming, and oddly enough, mash together well, sort of like when someone manages to wear several different plaids at the same time and look good.

JMWB p. 28

Lap of Luxury
Port Ellen (Royal Mile Dormant Distilleries Company bottling) AND Domori Porcelana

Um. Perfection. Times 2. Really. In both cases, turn off the music. Sit down. Shut up. Close your eyes. Smell. Taste. The platonic ideal of a whiskey paired with the platonic ideal of a chocolate. It's hard to move on to anything else once you taste these. Porcelana beans are fan-fucking-tastic. (Bonnat also makes a Porcelana bar that I love). Clean and complex, with a taste of raspberry and a whiff of tobacco.

Seriously, if you want to see what all the fuss is about "fine chocolates", but only want to buy a single luxury chocolate bar for yourself, buy either Domori or Bonnat Porcelana. They are what heaven tastes like.

The Old Man and the Sea
Compass Box Eleuthera WITH Coppeneur Ocumare

Yeah, both are kinda salty and rough and charming. Coppeneur chocolate is crumbly rather than creamy, but that's a good thing. Trust me. Ocumare is earthy and has a bit of an iron taste to it. Love it. A friend of mine actually mails me a few of these bars from Germany on a regular basis.

This Vatted Malt Whisky (blend of 100% single malts from different distilleries) is made from combining the strong, smoky complexity of traditional island malts with the smooth richness of mainland malts. The result is a whisky which is rich, smoky and silky with a long, spicy finish.

The Rum Punch
Tyrconnell Madeira Cask WITH Stainer Peperoncino di Espelette con Ananas

For some reason, if you take a sip of Tyrconnell and then a bite of this chocolate, it tastes like rum punch. Now, usually I find chocolate with peppers boring. Stainer, however, has elevated it to an art form. They actually take care about the peppers so that they *match up* with the taste of the chocolate. Here they've added some dried pineapple, so you have sweet-hot-rich (not unlike thai food). The quality of their chocolate is only okay, though, with some waxiness. But it's worth trying for their chilli ingenuity alone.

JMWB p. 265

Lagavulin 16 yr WITH Bonnat 100%

Lagavulin 16 is briny, iodinish, and superb. It's strong, and can be overwhelming. But if you like espresso, olives and such, it's probably your thing. Bonnat 100% has NO SUGAR. Just cocoa mass. Yup. It too is iodinish and superb, strong, and can be overwhelming. Again with the espresso and olives. It's surprisingly sweet for a chocolate without sugar, and is one of my all-time favorite bars that I just keep around all the time (that I can... the stuff sells out.)

boozy sweet music: Cheap drunk by Ember Swift.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Leek pies and potluck survival tips

So here we go, kicking off Ducky's Modern Medieval. See an earlier post for how I'm doing this. As for the why... it's just a different method of cooking and new (old) spice combos. I love the mix of sweet and savory, and how most of the recipes I've seen lend themselves well to the Scottish winter of root vegetables and homey, heady food. It's also fun to see how many of the foods look familiar (this one just looks like a quiche), but uses flavour combos that aren't terribly common in european cooking anymore, though I did find myself thinking of persian food while the smells of this baking filled my kitchen.

I brought this to a (work) potluck, where I was pleasantly surprised that some people brought vegan food. But that was a bonus, and over the past few years, I've learned not to expect that. I go to (non vegan) potlucks to see my friends or socialize with my colleagues, not for the food. Keeping that in mind:

Vegan potluck strategies (for an omni potluck):
1. Bring something super extra duper yummy. Now is NOT the time for your low-fat, quick or "love it or hate it" foods. Like it or not, you are probably going to be "the vegan". And thus your food is "the vegan food". See this as an opportunity to show people that we don't live on twigs and apples alone.
2. Put some of your food aside for yourself BEFORE leaving. Yes, as in a separate tupperware container that you leave in your backpack, purse, tote bag...whatever. That way, you know you'll have something to eat even if no one other than you brings anything vegan, and if everyone swarms the dish you bring and wants to taste "the vegan food", you won't be stressed about having to spend the entire time hungry or sugar-buzzed or regretfully drunk in a room of work colleagues etc. Plus, you want to be generous with the vegan food, because you are "the vegan". Sorry if you didn't apply for the ambassador posistion; it comes with the territory.
3. Bring a main dish. Why? Because you need dinner. If you are a cupcake warrier, just make sure you bring a dinner-ish thing for yourself, like some hummous and veg and bread. Or a sandwich, or whatever.
4. Bring a dessert too. Since you've cooked a fancy main, just pick up a nice dark chocolate bar or something. If you are a cupcake warrier...grrrrrrrrr! Amaze them!
5. Chill. If you're at an omni potluck, you're clearly not there for the food. You're there to socialize. Focus on that. If it all goes horribly wrong food-wise, eat the bag of nuts that you cleverly stashed in your bag beforehand, dig into that chocoalte bar, drink abusively, and enjoy time with your friends and/or colleagues. It won't kill you to skip dinner for one night. If you *really* are miserable, leave politely.

...and we don't need advice for a vegan potluck, now do we? Except for don't eat too much earlier in the day. Maybe go for run. And wear elastic-waist trousers...

Enough about my winner "how to survive an omni potluck" strategies.

Modified from Amber Day Tart
(modern omni recipe on

My veganized version, which is by now only loosely based on the original: 3 leeks, chopped in rounds and boiled in water and white wine until all the liquid has evaporated and the leeks have lost the will to live, a few raisins, about 1/3 tps each of sage, cloves, nutmeg, generous pinch of saffron. Tofu bit (replacing eggs, and cheese etc): mashed silken tofu, sweet white miso, chickpea flour, salt, white wine vinegar, mustard. Baked in a pie shell made of pizza dough (flour, yeast, salt olive oil, water). Mix leek bit (no water left) with tofu mash. Add 2 big bunches of chopped parsely. Place in prebaked pie shells (Bake the pizza dough at high-ish heat until it is not-quite-done. say half the time you would usually bake it for. The point here is to just make sure it has a crust so you don't make it all soggy when you add the filling). Top with walnut chunks. Re-bake on lower heat (180C/350F) until set. Huzzah!


173. Tart in ymbre day. Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out þe water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese [brede AB] & bray it in a morter, and temper it vp with ayren. Do þerto butter, saffroun & salt, & raisons corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serue it forth.

- Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.

modern medieval music: dead can dance

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

why ethical vegetarianism isn't

(alternate title: How to alienate your vegetarian readers and spark a bunch or really really defensive comments on your blog)

Sometimes I've been asked why I call vegetarians "omnivores", as if I don't make a distinction between a life that includes eating meat, and one that does not. The short answer is that I actually *don't* see a difference ethically. Aesthetically, yes. There is a huge aesthetic difference between vegetarian food and meat-including food, though this need not be the case, especially in cuisines where meat is used in small amounts, basically as a seasoning, much like vegetables are in the standard western diet. Being vegetarian is like not eating wheat or something. It may have a large impact on the taste of your dinners and your choice of entrees at restaurants. In that sense it is different than a standard omnivorous diet. But ethically? Nope. No difference at all. Either way, you're killing animals. Whether you do it sooner or do it later and then make someone else eat the evidence makes no difference to how dead they are.

The frustrating bit is that I know several people who are vegetarian for ethical reasons. I was. And the fact that this is even possible speaks to the frightening level of misinformation about animal use and treatment, as well as to the strength of denial and degree of cognitive dissonance that people live with.

1. Milk and eggs are no less cruel than meat. Leather is no less cruel than meat. We all know this if we do even a tiny token amount of poking around on teh Internetz on sites that are not directly funded by the dairy and egg industries. Dairy cows are killed when they don't produce milk anymore. No mammal should produce that much milk anyway (mammals lactate only to feed their young, so dairy cows have to be repeatedly impregnated). Half of all calves are male, and since males don't produce milk, they are used for meat (veal). Same goes for chickens. Show me the "happy chicken retirement home" for the spent egg layers and the "foster care" where all the male chicks are reared with adequate space and food and opportunities to act like actual birds despite being useless in terms of egg laying (hint: slaughterhouse and garbage bin, respectively).

Leather is not a byproduct of the meat industry. It is important in of itself, and is part of the reason that we slaughter animals. "Meat" is only part of the money value of an animal body. The demand for leather and other "byproducts" is just as important as that for meat. Plus, what could be better advertisement for endorsing killing than wearing a dead skin out in public?

2. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that milk and eggs are actually worse than steak. If someone was going to kill me horribly, I'd rather they just do it, rather than rape me repeatedly and force me to bear several children first, which would then be taken away from me and either killed or sold into the same horrific "life" that I was leading. I would find it laughable (though I can't picture myself laughing under those circumstances) that people who only benefited from the part of my "life" that preceeded killing me were considered "kinder" or "more ethical" than those who also benefited directly from my death. Of course, I'd rather not be owned and killed at all, horribly or otherwise, which brings us to...

2.5. Empathy. If you thought that point 2. was a bit over the top, stop and ask yourself why. Our idea that it is wrong to kill (assuming you think that it is) is based on empathy. We understand that a cow wants to live. All I did there was to follow that empathy through rather than cutting it off where it would have been convenient to do so if I had a leather fetish or a deep and meaningful love of cheese pizza. It requires doublethink to say that killing is wrong but a little torture is okay. It requires turning off empathy when it interferes with our selfish wants or with our image of "who I want to be". If one wants to be caring, then the way to do that is to look at our actions and see if they actually reflect that, changing them when they do not. Realizing that I am doing something wrong doesn't make me uncaring. We all fuck up, and we all sometimes make decisions based on incomplete or untrue information, peer pressure or habit. However, realizing that I am doing something wrong and subsequently doing nothing to change it makes me uncaring. It also makes me a hypocrite.

Ethical vegetarianism goes about this whole "I am a caring person" business ass-backwards and says that instead, we first define ourselves as caring, and since we are caring, our actions are de facto caring because they are motivated by this, no matter what the actual consequences of these actions are (also known as "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"). So yes, I think that ethical vegetarianism is uncaring. It can be so because the actual person is uncaring or in denial, or because of wrong or incomplete information, peer pressure etc. But the reason doesn't change the action itself.

And actually, it's not about us. It's about whether or not one species is soooo important that it gets to own others. Even the gentlest, kindest farm where the cows are cuddled constantly, allowed to frolic through the cow-friendly fields and given handjobs every day is still us owning them. If you can't see why this is wrong, think about the recent property status of women. I'm sure that some women were happy in marriages where they were the legal property of their husbands. I'm sure that many of these men were nice and kind and let the women do pretty much what they wanted. But that ultimately doesn't matter, because women shouldn't be property, no matter how nicely you treat them. The fact that you can make the best of a terribly, terribly wrong situation does not make the situation itself right. We, and cows, exist for our own sake. Okay, that's a whole other post on abolitionism vs welfarism, and we may get there eventually, but not today.

3. Free range is just greenwash to make us feel better. You cannot purchase a clear conscience, no matter what the glossy green recycled paper adds with a Prius in the background tell you. You still kill animals. If you don't look too hard, you can pretend like it's a slightly less horrible way to treat them, and then indulge in killing without guilt. However, happy meat is about people feeling good, not animals feeling good. And again, there's still that nasty killing. When you look at what "free range" actually means, it isn't usually all that wonderful in terms of treatment. For chickens, free range just means theoretical access to the outdoors. So to put this in perspective.... if we put several hundred children into a small classroom with no room to sit or move and then opened a small window at one end that they could theoretically get out of, that would be "cage free". And free range stuff can be more profitable for the meat and dairy industries than conventional farming because they can charge higher prices that more than compensate for any extra cost incurred. This supports the meat and dairy industries, which don't care about the health of animals (or of people, really), but are industries like any other, with the primary goal of turning a profit by telling you what you want to hear.

4. As a certain little wrinkled jedi master has pointed out: There is no try. In kindergarten, there is a gold star for effort, but that's because in kindergarten, the point is to learn how to make an effort. However, the reason we learn to make an effort is not merely to expend energy and accumulate gold stars, but to actually *accomplish something*. I shit you not. That's the point. And in some cases, such as ethical vegetarianism "trying to be more vegan" is code for "I want credit for being ethical but do not actually want to bother being ethical. Give me a gold star." Vegetarians who tell me that they "try" to be vegan or are "moving towards" being vegan (often for years... sheesh... how slowly do you move?!!) make my head spin. If you think you are acting immorally, than fucking change what you're doing! Do you really expect me to respect someone who has just flat-out TOLD me that they're unable to act in accordance with their own morals on something this simple? Being vegan is easy if you are not dependent on parents or such and can afford access to the internet or a library. There are books and websites. There are a kazillion blogs. There are vegans who would be bloody delighted to help you and cook for you and cheer you on. Hell, I would not only help with cooking and finding vegan replacements for household stuff and some clothes (and the all important sex toys etc.), but I would do little dances of encouragement complete with cheerleader skirt and pompoms! So no, I don't think trying or "moving towards" is enough. If you think it's okay to kill animals, then say so. If you don't, then act like it. Would you respect someone who told you that they were "moving towards" being okay with homosexuals, but "occasionally" indulged in a few rounds of gay-bashing or homophobic slurs when it was just too hard to hold back or when they would feel left out because everyone around them was doing it? Or someone who was only racist on thanksgiving because of tradition?

Just to be clear, I respect ethical vegetarians as people (just as I respect Republicans or those who drive SUVs), but that doesn't mean that I agree with or will pretend to ignore their inability to act in line with their own stated morals. Just because something is legal and done by the majority of people, that does not make it morally okay. You can respect someone without condoning their behavior.

Much as I disagree with meat eaters, I find that I can handle them better than ethical vegetarians. At least there is some level of consistency in saying "I have no problem with killing" and then acting accordingly. While I find it terrifying that most people don't have a problem with killing, and that we have stunted our ability to empathize so fully that this is "normal", at least it is consistent. You can disagree with consistent. You can argue with consistent. You can at least see where consistent comes from and where it's going. Whereas when somebody tells me that they're an ethical vegetarian, all I can think is "that's an oxymoron". Either you lack information or you lack balls. I have enough for both of us, so tell me what you need, and if I can help, I will.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

stewing in afog

AFOG: another fucking opportunity for growth. And you know what they say. If you wanna grow, you should eat your veggies. This is warm and comforting and will make you reek of garlic. Good for those slightly blue, slightly misanthropic, vaguely antisocial evenings. Also useful if you anticipate any vampire encounters after dinner or if you're fighting off a cold.

Roast these: a whole head of garlic in cloves, half a large head (or a whole small head) of cauliflower, a pepper (I used yellow because it was what I have, but red would be prettier) an onion in large pieces, an eggplant in large pieces, a dozen or more whole cherry tomatoes, four or five sun-dried tomatoes cut into strips...I just chop them up with scissors. In this: enough water to reach halfway up the veg, a good swig of balsamic, a whole lemon worth of juice (you can throw in the peels as well if they're organic, and just pick them out when you're done roasting) oregano, thyme, mint, salt. This will make a stew with little blackened roasty bits where the veg poke up out of the liquid. When it's done, add more hot water (to cover the veg), some cooked white beans, chopped green olives and chopped capers. If the beans made things too cold, simmer. Stir. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Eat with crusty bread and a salad. Drink dark red wine and listen to soulful violin music if you're so inclined. I'm more of a Nick Cave and whiskey girl myself, but you get the idea.

That's the homey version. If you want to fancy it up for company, roast the veg in olive oil, the spices and balsamic first, then move the whole mess to the stove, deglaze with water and a touch of wine. Add the other stuff then bubble, bubble, toil and trouble for a few minutes. Squeeze in some lemon juice, garnish with parsley and toasted pine nuts and make the bread into garlic bread (because if your guests don't like garlic, they're screwed anyways, so you might as well just go with it). The homey and fancy versions are both damn good, but the homey one is ... homey-er, and less work, and way less futzy.

Use the leftovers for pasta sauce tomorrow.

Now kiddies, go eat a little something healthy before I hit you with several chocolate posts in rapid succession.

Music in afog: Cowboy Junkies, played real quiet.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

new kitchen, same dance

I moved into a kitchen of my very own, at least for the winter. And I have possibly the worst picture yet, since I think my photographic standards have been dangerously high as of late. However, this is okay, since eggplant curry is one of those dishes that tastes divine and looks like a big old pile of mush (at least when I make it). Why waste my limited photography skills on mush?

After that last post, I thought I'd show y'all something simple, and kitchenwarming. Eggplant curry: cumin, coriander, kashmiri chillies, bay leaf, onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, eggplant, chickpeas, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, chilli flakes, salt, lemon juice, coriander. Sounds complicated, but it's not. Dry roast everything up until and including the bay leaf until your kitchen smells like heaven. Add the onion and coat in the nearly-burnt-but-not spices. Throw in some water, and then the tomatoes, ginger and garlic. Simmer. Add eggplant and cooked chickpeas. Simmer some more. Add everything else. Eat on rice. I also had fennel and grapefruit, sliced thin and maybe some lime pickle.

Note: I used the cinnamon, cloves and black pepper because I was out of garam masala. I used chickpeas that I already had cooked up, and since I boil my beans in salted water, this curry didn't need a lot of salt. The trick of dry-roasting the spices and then adding onions until they get crusted with toasty spices and then throwing water on the whole mess is a nice way to do everyday food without adding oil. If you're having a dinner party, or want to make this richer, do the standard thing where you start off by frying the spices in oil. On a day to day basis, I prefer the no-oil version, even in terms of taste. Fried stuff is just too heavy and tired-making at the end of a day. This isn't a super quick dinner, so make the most of your time and cook up enough for leftovers tomorrow.

Monday, 29 September 2008

i wanna be a chocolate god post 7: alien appendages

You know sometimes food is good just because it reminds you of something gross. Or fun. Or both. If it tastes really good, then you know you have a winning situation. This is one such situation. This is basically a rolled version of lasagna, and the three concentric layers kind of make it look like a severed limb. Now, because of the colours, it's clearly vulcan (red bone, green blood, brown skin). might just be lasagna. Vulcans are vegan, but eating them isn't. Though I seem to be a little obsessed with it (see this post).

First, find a Vulcan. Lure them into a false sense of security. Then steal their arms. This is difficult, because the average vulcan will see right through your ruse. So alternately, try this:

I batch chocolate pasta

beet filling: cooked beets, red chard stems (or more beets), okara riccotta (okara, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt, sweet miso, chickpea flour, vinegar)

chard layer: chopped chard leaves, rocket, blue Sheese, nutmeg, pepper

mushroom layer: onion, mushroom, white wine, oregano, thyme, marmite, pepper, truffle oil, flour to thicken.

Roll out the pasta dough into a ginormous rectangle on a peice of waxed paper. Lay three stripes of filling (in the order above) onto the rectangle. leaving room to seal the edges. Roll up like a giant sushi roll (making sure not to roll the paper into the thing) cursing if necessary. Cut into two. Use the paper to hoist the arms up and place them in a dutch oven. Inundate with white wine and water, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 375 for about an hour, covered. Check periodically to make sure that the arms aren't welding themselves to the pan. Serve slices sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, cocoa nibs and pumpkin seeds, a bit of truffle/olive oil, and some parsley. We also had salad with it. On the salad was reduced balsamic vinegar with a square of dark chocolate melted into the reduction. because sometimes things really do get that decadent. Oh yes.

You can also use any of these fillings alone as ravioli filling.

Coming soon: post 8: whiskey....

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Yuba yum

According to medici, this is the best yuba I've made yet. Oooookay. To make the best yuba yet: soak yuba and discard water. Use a pan you can put in the oven. Simmer the yuba in soy sauce and white wine. Fish out the done yuba (there should still be some liquid left), and throw in grated ginger, garlic, a tiny bit of sugar and mustard greens. Cook the greens down, and add enoki mushrooms. Pile the cooked yuba on top, sprinkle with truffle oil and sesame seeds and pop the whole mess under the broiler. When it crisps up, eat it on black sticky rice. Drink the white wine along with dinner. Chase with salted chocolate. How very decadent. Medici is groaning with pleasure even as I type. Because of the food. Really.

If you set the rice soaking earlier, this really is fast to make, and dead easy. Any greens will work, as will any mushrooms (or combo of mushrooms). You can add tofu, or nearly any other vegetable that tastes good when cooked through. You can use sesame or olive oil instead of truffle (but I have truffle oil sitting there, and if I let it go rancid or fail to use it for yummy inventions, I will burn in culinary hell). Go easy on the soy sauce and heavy on the wine if you're not sure. You can always add salt later if you want. The sugar is key. You can't really taste it, but it makes the soy sauce taste, well, soy saucier. It's like when you add salt to cookies, but the opposite. See? Makes total sense.

Singing: "try a little priest" and many other choice tidbits from Sweeney Todd.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

am vegan, will travel, will blog for peanuts (or peanut sauce).

I travel a fair amount. And when I travel, people invariably say "Gee, it must be hard to travel as a vegan." The last person who said this to me looked at me with pity as I danced gleefully in the rain atop a munro in the Scottish highlands during a lunch break. Yup, I'm sure my giggling, dancing chocolate-eating self was the very picture of hardship and deprivation. I handed out apples, nuts and chocolate to the two people who had come without a lunch. I made friends and had lots of fun. I've never had any problems traveling "as a vegan". It just takes some minimum amount of preparation. Like, really minimum, and then you can be happy and ungrumpy and show people how very easy vegan is. Here's what I do:

1. TAKE FOOD. I have a little red bag that is my "travel food" bag. In it are: individual instant miso soups with little packages of seaweed taped to them, a small pack of crispbreads (6), mixed nuts, dried fruit, roasted dried chickpeas, a small tin of vegan spread such as tartex and a small bar of ridiculously good chocolate. Sometimes some tofu jerky as well, depending on how long the trip is and how far from civilization I'm going to be. This is pretty much always packed, so I just grab it when I"m off on a trip. The key here is that even if there is nearly nothing for me to eat on the train/plane/research station, I can make at least 3 full meals for myself. Also, I can make a feast out of a plate of plain iceberg lettuce by adding nuts, and have something to spread on plain bread/baked potatoes/pasta. I take this when I go on work trips that last a few days where I may get somewhere late and then not have any time to do shopping while I'm there and where there isn't likely to be any real choice of restaurants (ie- I have to rely on cafeterias). Basically, I find that you can always get simple salads and plain starches, so I bring along stuff to dress these things up. If you are going on a plane, put this in your checked baggage so it doesn't get confiscated. Just bring a sandwich and apple or something on the actual plane.

2. TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE VEGAN WELL IN ADVANCE. Be very clear. I always send an email saying "By the way, I am vegan. This means that I don't eat any animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey. Please let me know if you will be unable to accomodate this so that I can bring extra food along with me." Generally, people have been very good about arranging to go to restaurants with vegan options and/or providing vegan food for me at work. However, most omnis won't know what to feed you, and with the best of intentions, may just give you a salad. This is fine, but I find that I often don't get *enough* food, which is where the little red bag from 1. comes in handy.

Also, it helps to give concrete ideas of what you DO eat. If you have some idea of what is easily available where you're going, don't be shy about giving suggestions. For example, on a recent trip, I had the bright idea to point out that baked potatoes and beans were vegan, which saved me from a week of uninterrupted iceberg lettuce and nut salads. Working in Italy (where I usually have no time to shop during the work, and we eat at restos/cafeterias twice a day), I bring some food, but pointed out to my hosts that pasta and pizza crust are both vegan, which they didn't think of. They were stressed over finding a "special" restaurant for me, which is unneccesary. I was there to work, not for a free tour of veg*n restaurants (though there is the most adorable vegan bakery in Florence. OH YUM). I'd much rather they stressed out about lab space and such. People often confuse vegan with gluten-free, wheat-free, etc. diets. The more specific you can be with your suggestions, the more likely you are to get something other than iceberg lettuce. The less people have to worry about feeding you, the more you can get on with the point of your visit (unless you're on a food-based visit...).

3. SHOP WHEN YOU GET THERE. You need fresh vegetables. Stop at the first grocery store you see and buy stuff that doesn't need refrigerating: carrots, brocolli and apples are my staples. Also, most supermarkets (or even tiny markets here in the UK) sell bags of precut, prewashed mixed veg. You can keep these in your hotel room/dorm/backpack for several days and they'll be fine. Farmer's markets etc. are also fun if you can find them. Do not buy bananas. They squish.

4. BRING IMPLEMENTS. Bring a pocketknife, a spoon and a corkscrew. I find that a reusable container also comes in handy in case you want to make sandwiches or something. You will also impress people with your boyscout-like readyness.

5. SHARE. If you're going to a place where you're going to be eating with people, bring extra dessert (chocolate in my case). Don't go out into the world and give people the impression that vegans are all a bunch of deprived martyrs who have to pass on dessert while everybody else eats cake. Also, I find that if you're generous with others, they will be generous with you. If you're whiney and demanding, people won't particularly care about feeding you. If you're happy and generous, you may find that they end up doing all sorts of things that are suddenly "no trouble" to make your life easier.

6.OFFER TO COOK. If you're staying in someone's home, offer to make them dinner. Ask what they like, and make a vegan version of it.

7. SAY THANK YOU. This is the MOST IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP. Whenever somebody makes sure that you have vegan food, thank them, no matter what the food was. This includes restaurant staff who have modified menu items for you, colleagues who have phoned ahead to restaurants, field station students who have left the cheese off the communal pasta dinner, or the organizer who brought you a pb&j sandwich from their home at the last minute when they realized that the cafeteria didn't have anything vegan. Even if it's iceberg lettuce.

Other minor things are: learn how to identify "eggs, dairy etc." in whatever language you need to. Learn how to explain what you will and will not eat. It is often more helpful to say "I don't eat any animal product...including...(insert list here)", than to say "I"m vegan". Most people don't konw what vegan means, or don't get it, in that they won't give you big chunks of meat, but often think "a little egg" is okay. Generally speaking, I prefer to shop in the produce aisle or go to the market for fresh veg and bread etc. than to eat out.

For dinner tonight, at home: roasted veg with peanut sauce. For the peanut sauce: Take 2 heaping tbs each of grated (ground, pureed, superfinely chopped...whatever) garlic and ginger. Fry up in a smidge of sesame oil and a larger-than smidge of peanut oil. Add about 2c water and 1/4c soy sauce, some sugar and chilis. Bring to a boil. Add 1/4c or more peanut butter (I use crunchy ingredients other than roasted peanuts). Simmer until thick. Turn off the heat and add lime juice (from 1 lime) and a drizzle of sesame oil. Taste and adjust salt/sugar/chilis. Smother veg. Top with toasted crushed sesame seeds. So easy to make. Eat. We had this on roasted spuds, carrots, kale, celery and tofu.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Breaking news: meat is bad for the planet...still

Rajendra Pachuri, bless his stubborn self, is at it again, asking people to PLEASE EAT LESS MEAT to reduce our impact on the earth. Animal agriculture is not good for anyone, and is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gasses. I've blogged about this before, and I will do so again. Consuming meat and other animal products is worse driving an SUV, or heating your house to near-tropical temperatures if you live in the north. Not only is it unethical in that you have to imprison, torture and kill sentient animals, but it is unethical because you are trashing a planet that is not yours to trash. I really don't have much more to say on this one, other than grow up and take responsibility for your actions, people. Sheesh.

But hell, why trust me? Here are some links on climate change
David Suzuki
Climate Feedback
Royal Society

Oooh. And I also talk to The Angry Hippie about climate change on his latest podcast. Yup. I'm Science Dude.

If you're not ready or are unwilling to change to a vegan diet, try to at least eat a few vegan meals a week. While I don't think this solves any of the ethical problems with animal exploitation, it *does* have some impact on your carbon footprint. Start with breakfast. Yes, every breakfast. Then, when you're okay with that, move on to Breakfast + Dinners. Then add in lunch. If you're reading this, you've discovered that vegan food isn't boring or hard, and that there are about a bazillion vegan food blogs out there. For tips on transitioning to vegan diets, or having more vegan meals in you diet, try the PCRM site. Also awesome is Compassionate Cooks.

If at first you don't love things like soy/almond/rice milk, then think of breakfasts that don't involve them. And give it three weeks. You need time for your tastes and habits to change. A lot of how much we like a food is our percieved idea of how it "should" taste. If you're 30 years old and have been eating cereal with cows milk for 28 of those 30 years, your expectations of how your cereal "should" taste are going to be skewed to cow's milk. Give yourself a few weeks to adjust to other milks if you want to eat a vegan version of your omni breakfast. Try different plant milks. Be gentle with yourself and have fun. Maybe the transition would be easier if you had a week or two of chocolate soy milk on your cereal, or made a big batch of vegan pancakes on the weekend and then reheated them in the toaster so that breakfast is decadent. Keep in mind that you probably already eat some vegan foods (toast and jam, spaghetti with tomato sauce, curries, vegetable soups, fruit salad etc.). Make and effort to put the vegan meals that you already know and love on your table more frequently. No one is asking you to be in the least deprived. Just responsible.

Finally, if you kinda sorta wanna go vegan, or have thought about it but not done it, tell me why. Yup. Leave a comment, and if there's info you need or recipes you want, I'll post them. If you want lists of beginner cookbooks, I'll do it. If you need me to veganize your favorite comfort food for you, I'll have a go at that. If you want my top-secret soy/almond/coconut mik making method, I'll divulge. Tell me what it would take to make you more vegan than you are. C'mon. You know you want to spill the beans.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

i wanna be a chocolate god post 6: fall

Fall food: Fry onions (2 small) and itsy-bitsy cubes of smoked tofu in a little bit of olive oil on low heat until they're done-ish. Add veg broth, water, smoked paprika, achiote and thyme (maybe some salt depending on the saltiness of your veg broth). Add a layer of green beans, and then a layer of whole cored nearly-ripe pears. Do not stir. Cover and simmer until everything is done.

Once this is done, make the sauce: Carefully pour any remaining liquid out of the pan into a small pot (hold the contents of the pan in place with the lid. Add an equal volume balsamic vinegar to the cooking broth and reduce by at least half. Add a few squares dark dark chocolate, and pour over the layered, simmered yum.

We ate this on mashed spuds/parsnips and a tomato and herb salad.

Also, a while ago I mentioned that I would send off microbreads (or other baked goodies) in returen for salmiakki... and someone took me up on it! Anni from Tofu for Two sent me a package of sweets in exchange for some truffles! Apparently there ARE finnish vegans who read my blog! Yay! Thanks Anni.

dancing to: it was an inpromptu dinner party. we did the "good friends, good conversation thing" or maybe we just talked about how airplane bathrooms are really much to small to have sex in. you'll never know.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Ducky's culinary school: synergistic mole pancakes...with chard

Spanky named these himself.

We have a surplus of chocolate stout. Oh the horror! Actually, it's a batch of homemade chocolate stout that didn't carbonate quite enough, so it's cooking stout. And while cooking with alcohol is fun, this doesn't have a flavour that can just dissappear into the background. So we decided to feature it in this fancy-looking but actually really easy dinner. We plan to use this to impress people in the future.

Pancakes (6): 2 cups buckwheat flour, 400-500 mL chocolate stout, salt, 1 tbs flax, baking powder. Sauce: 3 small but powerful onions, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 5 or so large mushrooms, all cooked in white wine. When the onions are translucent add: 1tbs cumin, 1tbs coriander, 1 tsp oregano, black pepper, salt, a whack of chipotle in adobo sauce, 4 chopped tomatoes, tiny bit of pomegranite molasses (because we didn't have any limes). Simmer. Just before you're ready to eat, add chard. We used red chard. It was pretty. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs. Drink ginger beer. Bitch about useless safety regulations.

Question: What could be better than pancakes for dinner? Answer: N0thing. Pancakes for dinner are pretty much the bestest thing ever.