Saturday, 29 March 2008

happy bogle day

Today is Bogle day. A friend of mine, who we will call the Mad Mathematician, decided to revive (or rather to vive) the Scottish "tradition" of a Bogle party. The nice thing about making up a tradition is that you get to do it however you want. So, a Bogle Day party goes thusly: The host makes Bogle cakes (which we decided should, traditionally be vegan) and provides gin, tonic and whiskey. The guests bring savoury Bogle-themed dishes. Plus, everyone is accompanied by their own personal Bogle for the evening. I thought that for my Bogle dish, I'd make something spud based, in celebration of (or to appease) Tatie Bogles, who hide in potato fields, which is good, because I don't think Bogles are the kind of thing I'd like to run into in a dark alley or a city park or a bike path. Also, since Edinburgh is on the coast, I thought seaweed would be nice, plus spuds and seaweed are a wonderful combination. Below is traditional Bogle day salad, when tradition gets to be defined by a Canadian vegan food-lover who misses the Japanese restaurants in New York and lives in Scotland. Bogle salad: spuds, onions and carrots simmered in water, soy sauce and sugar, cooled and mixed with wakame and some other random kelp and a few edamame (because the discovery of an asian grocery store today led to edamame. yay!). My Bogle was Animal, who has been my own personal scarecrow since I was a kid, plus there were Bogle puppets in Canada when I was in school. I didn't have one, but trust me, Animal is much, much cooler. Here, Animal is exasperated with my singing along Bogle bop music and/or just generally being un petit garcon niaiseux at the world today.
Boggle bop: Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

take me to your leader

There were these little round zucchini. They kinda look like fat little aliens, don't they? I could practically hear them saying "Take me to your leader!" in the store. So I beamed them into my veg basket and took them home. Here's a photo of them all lined up, completely ignorant of the fate that awaits them. I have included a manga postcard for scale, both in terms of size and cuteness. The alien zucchinni got stuffed with onion, celery, parsnip, kidney beans in white wine, sage, garlic, smoked paprika, capers and some chopped up olives. Here, you can see me sneaking up on the stuffed, cooked alien zucchini. They were yum. We had some gnocchi along with it. Rosemary gnocchi in lemon-garlicky goodness. I wanted something that made the lemon-garlic stick to the gnocchi that wasn't just oil, so i used okara, which was a damn good idea, if I do say so myself. It was kinda like making a lemon-garlic ricotta sauce, and not alien at all.

lulling the zucchini into a false sense of security with: the scissor sisters

Saturday, 22 March 2008

happy birthday spanky!

Spanky loves beets. And ginger. And we love Spanky. So, for his birthday, M and I made him a beet and ginger cake, with icing made oh-so-pink with beet juice. It was so damn festive and silly that I treated Spanky to a dramatic reading of "The cremation of Sam McGee". M and I, of course, had to do some serious quality control, and so we might have used a bit of the batter to make extra-cute little ginger cake monsters for a late night snack.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

homage to the flying spaghetti monster

Spaghetti with turnip and spinach (wholewheat spaghetti with onions, garlic and turnip simmered in veg broth, a splash of white wine, nutmeg and black pepper) topped with magical tofu stuff (mashed up homemade tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mustard, salt, smoked paprika). A vegan Scottish CSA box friendly take on the more traditional Spaghetti alla zucca idea. But I had no squash and I DID have a turnip. And I just generally love spinach. This happens sometimes.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

there's a line?

I haven't always been roomates with Spanky. I once had this roomie, who will will call the Bellybutton Worshiper, or BbW for short. I used to cook for BbW, who used to make little noises when she ate my food. These noises were not unlike the noises that one makes during sex. One day, a friend of ours said "BbW blurs the line between food and sex." to which BbW replied "There's a line?". And the more years I have of cooking and eating (and having sex), the more I think that BbW is right. Food is about senses. Not just taste, but smell and touch. And feeding people is associated so strongly with caring for them, and wanting to give them pleasure, and wanting to watch them enjoy using their senses. Sometimes food is beautiful, refined, and careful. Sometimes it's messy and wanton. Sometimes it's rich, like my truffle oil chocolate truffles. Sometimes it's fresh like collard rolls with chili sauce. And then there are the household pervertables. But I digress. The point is, I love food. I love making it and eating it and feeding it to others. I love using all my senses to cook and eat. I love making a mess. I love the way people's faces light up when you present them with good food made just for them, and I love it when my dinner guests take a bite of something, sigh, roll their eyes and look oh-so-pleased with the world. And I think that has a lot with me being vegan. Not with why I went vegan, but rather, with why I find it easy and just generally wonderful to actually be vegan on a dinner-to-dinner basis. I love food and pleasure far too much to associate them with death or torture or exploitation or guilt... Though sometimes, like tonight, masochism is fun. Very very spicy soup (ginger, garlic and onions grated up together, quite a few chilies, lime zest, lime juice, soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, aniseed, black pepper, mushroom broth, teeming hoards of mushrooms, spinach, coriander and tomatoes, and my first attempt at homemade soba noodles...which need some work) in my new exciting bowls, which feel wonderful in my hands.

music: the girl from ipanema came walking. but i danced.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

let them eat cake!

I made this birthday cake for someone at work this week, subbing in prune puree for the oil, because I find oily cake yuck, and using, um, a full cup of chopped candied ginger. The oozey icing is tofutti/soy yogurt/ginger/icing sugar. Between the layers of cake there is lots of squishy orange marmalade with chopped up candied ginger. I wanted the cake to be ooey gooey so that everyone would have to lick their fingers and be not-grownup about eating it. There is also a picture of me doing the icing dance, since we all know that cakes end up being much more beautiful if they are made with love and dancing.
icing dance music: cole porter. you're the top.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

comfort food. or, more spuds.

Lately, things have been crazy, and tonight i just wanted something warm and comforting. So here is a tofu pie monster (because monsters are comforting). Mashed up smoked tofu, olives, some of which were stuffed with garlic, more garlic, artichoke hearts, capers, oregano, paprika, cumin, lemon. I added some leeks and boiled, cubed spuds to this, topped it with tomatoes, and baked it. This is pretty heavy, but oh so good.

comforting, calming dance-along, cook-along music: rocky horror picture show soundtrack.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

dinner parties

One of my long-standing fantasies involves a dinner party. A rather specific one. For years, I've been compiling a guest list of the most interesting people I've met, and even though they're all over the world, one day I hope I can get them all in the same room. And when I do, I will feed them, because there is something about making food for people. And for those of you who know an obsessive cook, there is something about people who know how to be gracious dinner guests. Such people make me very very happy, and tend to get several cakes over the course of week-long visit... I really do have dreams about this. Occasionally, I even buy a lottery ticket. But for the time being, I have to settle for introducing people to each other when geography allows. Here's a dinner from one such introduction that took place in one of my favorite apts to stay at in Montreal (the people who live there are soooo fun to cook for) and a good friend from out of town, plus a mystery girl. It was one of those magic-tinged nights of good conversations, lovely people, yummy food, and just enough wine and chili to counteract winter. Greens (cumin, asafoetida, chili, onions, chickpea flour), ginger dal (red lentils and green peas cooked in tumeric and whole garlic cloves and cashews, with mustard seeds, onions, black pepper and lots and lots and lots of ginger fried up and added at the end, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice just before serving), coconut-lime-coriander chutney. Deep dark chocolate cake (2 smallish blocks tofu, 1.5 cups maple syrup, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 bar worth of chocolate chunks (minus "quality control"), cardamom, pepper, flour...I didn't measure it... sorry, baking powder, salt) topped with caffeine-attack sludge (cocoa, maple syrup, espresso, cardamom).

Last night was a bit calmer. Only two of us. I was cooking for more, and I must say that my dinner guest held up admirably under the barrage of food. I was just trying out some fun stuff... sour potatoes (potatoes and parsnip in tamarind, tomato paste, tomato, green chili, onions, garlic, fenugreek, raisins, and fresh coriander) and tofu and spinach (roasted cumin and coriander, nutmeg, ground cashews, ginger/garlic paste, jalapeno, salt) on red jasmine rice. It was one of those long lazy evenings, so there were also leek mini pancakes (leeks, flour, curry powder, baking soda) with tamarind sauce. There was also a dazzling array of pickes, plus the lentil dessert. And gin.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

soy milk maker madness! and carrot pickle.

One fine day I was taking out the recycling, and I realized that I had about a kazillion soy milk tetra packs and that this was ridiculous. So finally, I bought a soy milk maker. I *heart* ebay. Oooooh. Look. Fancy schmancy weekend cappuccino. Yuuuuuuuuuuuum. Some people dislike the beanyness of homemade soymilk. For soymilk, I add about a tablespoon of rice to the soaking soybeans, and then a bit of agave to the finished soy milk, and it's all I can do to hold myself back from drinking the entire batch right there.

Then, much to my dismay, I realized it was going to be one of those days where I just want to cook. Sigh. Nearly everyone I know is out of town, so I only have one brave soul coming for dinner tonight. I hope she's up to the challenge. I used the okara to make an indian-inspired dessert. And finally, the novelty of making my own tofu was too much to resist, so I made some, just following the instructions, and made saag tofu. Oh, and the fun didn't stop there.... While I was in Montreal, I had the most amazing carrot pickle. Yup. As in, I spent the entire plane trip back plotting and scheming the re-creating of this carrot pickle in my kitchen, and here's what I came up with: the problem with pickle is that it needs time to pickle. The problem with me is that I am impatient. Luckily, I am also not adverse to faking it when need be. So, here is my highly dubious carrot pickle method: I filled a 2 cup measuring cup with carrot machsticks. Toast and then grind some fenugreek seeds. Add these, some turmeric, some chilli, some salt and a bit of garlic to your carrots. Go easy on the chili. You can add more later if you need to. Chop up 3 pickled lemons, fearlessly creating the hybrid pickly love child of moroccan and indian food. Throw 'em in, along with a bit of the lemon pickle water. From experience: DO NOT taste the pickle at this stage. Trust me. Then pop some mustard seeds in a pan with a bit of oil, and throw on some asafoetida for good measure. Dump this on the carrots and other spices, and then mix up the whole thing. Microwave for a few minutes. Cover and refrigerate. It worked! I suspect my methods would have traditional cooks wringing their hands, but I'm not a traditional kind of girl. Plus, I have this damn good pickle, which makes me feel rather smug about the whole situation.

As for what happened to the okara (that's the leftover soybean pulp), I noticed that it had a consistancy similar to that near-solid milk that one uses for indian desserts...and I had some moong dal on hand, and well, sometimes these things just happen. Random dessert: boil up some moong dal with piles of green cardamoms until you have a paste. While that's going on, dissolve some saffron in a tbs of soy milk, and mix the saffrony soy milk into the okara. Also, dry roast some cashews. Pick out the cardamoms from the dal paste (chopsticks work well for this). Heat up a little bit of oil in a pan, and pour in the dal paste and stir it around until it starts sticking to itself and then add brown sugar to taste. I imagine jaggery would work better, but that would have required me leaving the house. Not going to happen. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the okara mix, and keep mixing until you have a giant ball of goo. Press into a plate. I have used my "fancy" plate. Cool, slice, eat. Yum. I know that this dessert, or at least the more authentic version of it, has a name. But at my favorite indian dessert shop in Montreal (ahem. Pushaps), we always just called it "the vegan one".

obsessive cooking sing-along: those pretty, those pretty, those pretty little things.