Monday, 18 February 2008

from russia, with love

Kasha with mushrooms, leeks, and carrots (oh come on, you don't need an ingredient list. it really is just kasha with mushrooms, leeks, and carrots and a spash of vermouth, because I'm that kind of girl) and stuffed tomatoes (tomatoes, okara with basil, nutmeg, mustard and truffle oil).

bopping along to: satisfy the mind podcast.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

gooey goodness

Baked pasta: buckwheat pasta in roasted squash and onion, garlic, mustard, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, nutmeg and black pepper topped with breadcrumbs/salt/sesame seeds/capers and baked. Caution: high heat capacity. Danger of tongue burning. Also, greens and soybeans with lemon and normal heat capacity.
not really a dancey night: cat power (the greatest)

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

bitching about Skinny Bitch pakaging

I know I've been told to love Skinny Bitch. After all, it seems to be making more vegans, which is what matters, right? Welllllllll.....

Why am I throwing this out into the blogosphere instead of just shutting up? Because books, tv programmes, ads, websites etc. like this anger me. They obviously prey on women's body insecurities and blatantly reinforce the message that we get every day that we should (want to) be skinny as hell and jealous of any other woman who "succeeds" better than we do at attaining this ideal. Just because the book is cute and the tone is flippant, that doesn't change the message. It only candy coats it. Just because something is cute, smiley, has the word "bitch" in the title, and is written by women, it doesn't mean that it's not serving up a big fat load of sexist crap.

Sadly, I can't comment too extensively on the actual content of the book, because I refuse to support projects that reinforce the idea that women should change their entire world view to be skinny, so I'm not going to buy it. I mean, there is nothing I wold like to see more than a world of vegans. But go vegan because you have a moral compass and perhaps some basic reasoning skills, not because you are insecure about your ass. From the book previews that I've been able to see on Amazon, the animal rights info in Skinny Bitch is actually fairly accurate, and there is a strong message of ethical veganism in there somewhere. Too bad it's in such a regrettable package.

In addition to the problematic body image message, this kind of bait-and-switch marketing reinforces the idea that women are so disinterested in (or incapable of considering) the actual issues around animal rights, consumerism and power relationships that they have to be coerced into doing the right thing by appealing to their shallow, vain, insecure side. And speaking of the right thing, the basis of ethical veganism that the power imbalance between people and other animals is out of control. However, when a book uses instead of questions womens obsession with weight loss, and reinforces the arbitrary and largely unattainable version of beauty touted by mainstream advertizing, it only reinforces the power imbalance known as sexism, which isn't any less evil than speciesism. It's just a different flavour of evil.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Ducky's culinary school spreads the vegetable love

Nothing says valentine's day like roses and chocolate. Soooo, Ducky's culinary school presents: rose and chocolate pizza, specially concocted for the FatFree Vegan Kitchen's valentine's food extravaganza.
Pizza dough: standard yeasted pizza dough, kinda. We used 300grams chickpea flour, 100 grams whole wheat flour, a pinch of salt, yeast and a tsp of rosewater. Knead. Leave to rise. Knead some more, roll out, sprinkle with more rosewater, a bit of salt and some freshly ground black pepper and then bake at 220C for 15 min. Yes, you bake the pizza dough naked (naked pizza dough, I mean. Naked cook is optional.)

Then, add the sauce, which in this case is a nice little layer of pomegranate molasses. Alternately, one could use dark chocolate shavings, chillies and balsamic reduction, if one were feeling fancy, or even mole sauce if you had some on hand. But the pomegranate molasses was making eyes at me, I swear. Toppings: first layer: Wilted spinach and arugula mixed with 1 tsp of dry roasted coriander seeds and 1 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds, mushed up with a mortar and pestle. second layer: Butternut squash simmered slowly in veg broth and white wine (sub apple cider vinegar if you want) with a tiny little bit of pomegranate syrup added near the end. Pop this back in the oven for a few minutes to let the different layers get aquainted with each other. Then add the romantic layer: sprinkle with a cocoa nibs and decorate with candied rose petals. If you are me, add a bit more black pepper.

That's for valentine's day. Note that at this time of year, what with all the kissing and such, vampires can be a concern. We recommend the following, though not necessarily as part of a romantic dinner:

Side dish: Vampire-be-gone spuds. It's misty and mysterious out tonight, so we thought that just to be on the safe side, we'd make these. Diced potatoes (4), whole cloves of garlic (one head worth), and one of those deceptively hot hungarian peppers, in veg broth, thyme, and smoked paprika. When everything is almost done (the water has almost all evaporated), add a can of chopped tomatoes or several chopped fresh tomatoes, a diced green pepper and a few chopped capers and continue cooking. When everything is actually done, throw in some nutritional yeast and salt to taste. If we hadn't used all the spinach on the pizza, I would have thrown it in these spuds.

Poor Spanky was mostly running about being my kitchen slave for this dinner, chopping things and keeping wine glasses filled and such. I think the role suited him, but he probably disagrees, so we will resume our regular "nice Ducky" programme next week when I'm not trying to impress anyone or ward off the undead.

valentine music for the terminally cynical: leonard cohen. everybody knows.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

vulcan ears, human rant, and the cross-species problem of time.

Don't worry, these are vegan. No actual vulcans were de-eared in the making of this dinner. It's just that while I was making the pasta shapes, they kept on coming out pointy and making me think of Spock. Chocolate orichietti (leftover pasta dough from the ravioli in an earlier post) on simmered, multicoloured yumminess (parsnip, onion, garlic, basil, marmite, splash of white wine, kidney beans, spinach). Simmer the veg in very little liquid on low-ish heat. This makes the parsnip all sweet and intense. The whole mess is sprinkled lovingly with pumpkin seeds and sea salt.

Now for the rant: no time.

A lame-ass justification that I often hear from omnivores as they scarf their lunches is that being vegan would take too much time. I feel compelled to rant about this. As a matter of courtesy, the rant will be followed with actual things that I do to make time to be vegan, because I don't actually spend all my time cooking and eating. I have a job, I have hobbies, and friends even. And no personal cook or anything! Shocking! All that and vegan too!

First off, let's just think about the following statement: I do not have time to live ethically. Because that's what "I don't have time to be vegan" is saying. So, I'm only going to say this once: IF SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT, YOU DAMN WELL MAKE TIME. Yes, I just shouted that, because it's so important that it warrants shouting. I think living as ethically as possible is important. It takes time. Finding that time takes a certain amount of organization and planning, but failing to find that time is simply not an option, because acting unethically is, well, unethical.

Here's an analogous situation. Imagine, for a moment that you are a man. And heterosexual. And have a girlfriend/wife. Now, you (and probably she) also have a job, hobbies and friends. This means that you don't really have time to do the housework or cook or do groceries. In that case, are you justified in saying "She should do it all for me. It's sad, really, that I have to exploit women in order to have enough time to go about my incredibly important life, but since my own personal life is soooooo much more important than hers, she'll just have to suck it up. Oh well. Too bad. She'll just have to give up her hobbies, job, or friends." ? I think we can all agree that the answer here is that you find time to split the work, even if it means that it cuts into your hobbies a wee little bit, or means you have to rearrange your schedule a bit, or that you have to learn to plan better. The life of a man isn't worth more than the life of a woman (well, in theory... the practice of this is a whole other rant). While this may be painfully obvious to many of us, the idea that we have the right to exploit others because we are too important to make time to wipe our own asses is a fairly prevalent one. Fear not, gentle reader: it is possible (indeed, easy) to find real time to wipe our own metaphorical asses!

Ahem. With veganism, I think it's much the same. My disorganization, or my desire to chill out/read a novel/work more etc. does not justify me killing (or outsourcing the killing of) someone else, even if that someone else is a cow. My scheduling conflicts and desire to write a novel while running a lab while maintaining a relationship are not the cow's problems, and certainly not her fault. So why should she be punished for it? In much the same way that I don't think that I would be justified in kidnapping a child and making it into my indentured servant so that I can have more time to do... whatever, I don't think that I would be justified in using animals for my own convenience (or taste). My convenience and taste are not more important than anothers right to exist. Or, as a high school history teacher was fond of saying: your rights end where somebody else's begin. Just because I have the physical or legal power to control or kill someone (like with a child, or a cow), it doesn't make controlling or killing them right.

So, what do I do about it? Well, first off, I admit that cooking food takes time. I make sure that if I'm going to have a busy week that I get lots of stuff pre-cooked on the weekend. I make big batches of lentils or beans. For lunch, I eat a lot of humongous salads (with beans) and bread or baked potato. This takes about 10 minutes to make in the morning, and I can nuke a spud while I eat breakfast. It would honestly take me about the same amount of time to wait in line at the cafeteria at work. If I'm traveling or trying to get settled somewhere, I admit that I'm going to have to eat whatever I can find that's vegan and somewhat good for me, and make sure that I have the money to do that. See some helpful travel tips in Vegan Freak. Basically, I plan in advance. I use happy cow a lot.

To keep shopping time down, I get a vegetable box delivered every week, and make grocery lists of non veg box items as I run out of them, and if I find myself missing an ingredient, I usually just deal with that, rather than running out to the store. But to be honest, I love veg. shopping, and have been known to spend vast amounts of time chatting with the veg. store dude, or the owners of stalls at the farmer's market. But I only go to the supermarket two times a month or so. With a list.

Most cookbooks have time saving tips, and almost every vegan cookbook that I've recently laid hands on has an "easy" or "fast" section (check out pretty much anything by Sarah Kramer, or Dino Sarma's book). These cookbooks are full of great suggestions if you're a novice cook and don't have the foggiest idea of how to go about cooking dinner on weeknights.

Also, I see cooking as something that I do to unwind, to spend time by myself or with friends, to do something creative, and to have fun with my senses. In other words, cooking is only a waste of time if you decide that it is. Frankly, I don't see the point of living a life that I don't enjoy, and it seems to me that the obvious places to look for pleasure are in the things that I get to do every day, like eating quiet breakfasts, the bike ride to work, work itself, coffee with colleagues, running in city parks, chatting with the veg. shop owner, showering with nice soap, and cooking. All of these are things that I "have to" do, either for work, food, or excercise. They make up a lot of my life. Why the heck would I spend that much of my life wasting time?

Being vegan does take more planning than the alternative of exploiting animals and the environment. It also takes a little more time. But really, we're talking about a few hours a week when you're learning, and a few extra minutes a day once you get into the swing of things. I think that the marginal extra time and effort are a laughable "sacrifice" to make in order to avoid stealing lives and resources that don't belong to us in the first place.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

pancakes gone wild

It's shrove tuesday/mardi gras/whatever. Hmmmmm.... being the queer vegan evolutionary biologist atheist, I'm not so big on Lent. But I've decided that if I'm going to keep one thing from my Catholic upbringing, it's going to be the fine tradition of eating pancakes for dinner on a wintery tuesday. Pakora pancakes (chickpea flour, baking powder, ground up flaxseeds, salt, asafoetida and the following roasted spices: cumin, coriander, fenugreek and ground cumin) under happy salty sauce (cumin, asafoetida, salt, green chili, onion-garlic-ginger puree, tomatoes, mushrooms, zuchinni tamarind). Is the singular of zucchini zucchino? That would be aubergine pickle on the side. Because aubergine pickle goes with everything.

the sound of pancakes: sometimes silence is nice.

Monday, 4 February 2008

potatoes and cabbage

Cabbage (onion seeds, cumin, fenugreek, curry leaves, onions, cabbage, chili, spinach, amchoor powder) and potato roti (leftover baked potatoes, cashew butter, nutritional yeast, whole wheat flour, salt, water).

doing the cabbage dance to: Serena Ryder

Saturday, 2 February 2008


I love feeding people. Love it. Partly because it gives me an excuse to make fancier food than I otherwise would, and partly because there is just something immensely satisfying about taking the time to cook for your friends. Plus, having a bunch of people all cozy in my kitchen with good food and good conversation is pretty much my idea of heaven.

Sometimes I make pasta. I wanted something mole-like, but not just mole sauce on something. I wanted several components of a dish to come together to make something savory, chocolatey, spicy and complex. So I decided to take many of the components of mole and make them into pasta filling, and then wrap them in chocolate pasta, and then cover that with a very plain tomato sauce. For the chocolate pasta, I use the method here, and subed in 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the flour. Ravioli fillings: baked turnip, onion, garlic and quince with toasted cumin and coriander, plus cinnamon, nutmeg, a bit of smoked paprika, chopped jalapenos, salt, black pepper and ground almonds. Served with baby tomatoes simmered in white wine. Sauvingnon blanc works really well here, because it has a faint capsicum taste that compliments the jalapenos and chocolate very well, and it doesn't make everything sicky-sweet, which is a concern here because you have the sweetness of the roast veg plus cocoa, so you want things to approach being sweet while not actually getting there. This is a savory dish, but just barely. I love making stuff like this. It makes me feel like a culinary tease.
The ravioli have a lot going on, so the side was just kale and chickpeas cooked in veg broth with lots and lots of garlic and some salt.
The starters for this were: lentil pate or veg haggis, depending on who you ask (puy lentils, walnuts, sauteed onions, marmite, sage, salt, lots of black pepper), corn tortillas and muticoloured pepper wedges for scooping up the pate, and three kinds of olives (stuffed with almonds, stuffed with chillies and kalamata).
Dessert: date cake with two kinds of ice cream (in previous post)

Friday, 1 February 2008

a wonderful thing to do to a carrot

For a fancy dinner, I decided to make two kinds of ice cream, since a friend is bringing cake. These are good winter ice creams, as they are very very creamy and sweet and strong.

Ice cream number one: ginger. Method to the madness: chop up a whack (like, half-3/4 cup) of candied ginger, and simmer it in 2 cups rice milk along with about a cup of raw cashews. Add sugar to taste. I didn't add any because between the rice milk and the candied ginger, it was plenty sweet already. I let this simmer for about 30 or 45 minutes and then turned it off and let it cool. When it cooled, threw it in my trusty little food processor and blended it until it was smooth. Meanwhile, I thickened up a cup of soy cream with some cornstartch, say a tablespoon, and let that cool. Basically, by "let cool" I mean "do this in the morning and then come back to it in the afternoon". I folded the two together and put them in a tupperware container in my freezer. Yum.

Ice cream number two: carrot. Because if you can have carrot cake and carrot halva, you can have carrot ice cream, dammit. Method to the madness: chop up and then simmer 4 medium carrots in 1 can of coconut milk + 2 sticks cinnamon + as many green cardamoms as you feel compelled to add. I used about 8. Simmer until the carrots are about to disintegrate. Add brown sugar to taste and a pinch of salt, pick out the spices, and then put the whole thing in the blender. Add a cup (or 200 mL, depending on the size of your container) of soy cream. This will be like carrot puree, which is too thick. Thin it out a bit with soy milk until it is the consistency of pudding (I added about a cup). Now taste it again, and resist the urge to just sit there an eat it. I added a bit more cinnamon and some clove. Vanilla would also work, but I didn't want it to compete with the coconut. Alternately, black pepper, which I would have added if this particular batch were not going to go with a date cake that a friend is bringing over. Freeze. Serve with ginger ice cream (and date cake) to bewildered guests.

I don't have an ice cream maker, so I just freeze these in plastic containers, and take them out about 10 minutes before serving and either beat them up a bit with a wooden spoon or put them back through the food processor.