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.