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). Orrrr...it 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 natural...no 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.

Monday, 1 September 2008

never say never

Now, usually I dislike celery. It is, in fact, the *only* vegetable that I'm not happy to see in my vegbox. And this week, there it was, staring at me. Taunting me even. Saying: So Iron Chef, whatcha gonna do now, eh? Also, I have fresh tarragon. Having never used tarragon, I had no idea what to do with that. For some reason, I was feeling too kewl to use teh Googles to figure out what to do with tarragon, and had this sort of "fuck you, celery" attitude going on. In a moment of rash Iron Chef macho-ness, I decided that I would not only *add* celery to the dish, but I would feature it. So I cranked up some very silly music and just went for it.

And... I may actually BUY celery to make this again.

Lemony celery soup: I started with about half a cup of soup stuff (bought as a mix of barley, lentils, legumes of various sorts) that I left soaking before leaving for work this morning. Then I added an onion, 3 giant cloves of garlic, some chopped ginger and a small (but serious) chili pepper and let that simmer while I chopped the celery (stalks only, about 1 small head) and a tomato, which got thrown in. Then I added a lot of toasted cumin and a tsp of marmite. Then, the chopped celery leaves (remember what I said about eating ALL the food?). When the celery appeared suitably disguised by the rest of the soup, I turned off the heat and added about 1/4 c. chopped fresh tarragon, some salt, and a whole lemon worth of juice. Yup. The tarragon manages to taste remarkably like anise here, and the whole soup is best described as what hot and sour soup would taste like if it were made in the middle east. For someone with a severe hangover. Anyways. It took one pot and about 20 minutes of cooking time if you remember to put the barley and legumes on to soak in the morning. Have some bread or a salad (or just a plate of olives, actually...this soup is pretty substantial), and you have a full dinner. See? Everyday food. (worry not, I shall post something fancy-schmancy soon enough) Oh yeah. And the reason I seem to be living on soups lately is because it is fall. I love fall. And for some reason in my head soup makes fall even more fallish.

singing along with the Arrogant Worms. If I still lived in my native Canada, I would want to be a pirate on the river Sas-kat-che-waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!