Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Warmer

My dears, I am very happy to share some pretty rockin' news with you - I've been selected as a guest writer on one of my favorite blogs, Not Eating Out in New York. I've written my praises of Cathy Erway's blog. On top of kick-ass recipes with a green slant, she also documents the DIY culinary happenings in the New York area, along with her reasons for lighting up a burner and, well, not eating out in New York. I answered the call to her readership: to offer up an outside defense of home-cooking.

What an appropriate time for this boost of confidence. My warmest thanks for the support of those of you who check up on my little space on the internet. I know you'll all dig Cathy's writing, too, so if you're not already, get yourself familiar with her site. And a special thanks to her for this honor. Oh, I'm all fuzzy inside now. I feel like I should end this with some sort of toast! So, um... Excelsior! Sure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa? Toys? OK! Do That!

Thus quoth my two-year-old niece on the matter of the annual gift-man. Yeah, Santa, do that thang! Inspired by her holiday enthusiasm and her tiny brain's ability to now form simple sentences, I decided to get some holiday baking underway. I tackled chocolate chip cookies, which I've been meaning to bake since the NY Times posted this back in July. The summer heat left me with no desire to fire up a hot oven, and the inspiration has been simmering since sometime right after the fireworks.

The recipe is an amalgamation of a few tried and true ones - healthed up a bit by oatmeal and whole-wheat pastry flour, inherently awesome by the presence of chocolate. I heeded the Times' advice on chilling the dough, something a step I've only ever followed on my mom's peanute butter cookies. But for reals, it made such a difference. The result was a creamier, chewier cookie with a more consistent, vanilla-y flavor. I guess that the idea is that the egg saturates the dough - though I didn't use egg, the liquid egg replacer achieved a similar effect. If you use egg replacer, make sure it's a gooey one like a store-brand or one with a water base. The fruit-and-baking-powder trick doesn't really apply here. And a sprinkling of salt on each dough-drop really plays on the sweetness - but in retaliation, I reduced the salt in the dough ever-so-slightly. And if you make these guys with the egg replacer and spoon some of the dough into your mouth when no one's looking... then no, Virginia, there is no salmonella clause.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 1/2 C whole-wheat pastry flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t fine-grain sea salt
1 c cane sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 c soy margarine or organic unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened at room temperature
3 egg replacers or 3 good-quality large eggs (EnerG Egg Replacer)
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 c rolled oats (walnuts or pecans work, too)
12 oz good-quality chocolate chunks (I love Ghirardelli, though it comes from the opposite coast) or 1 package chips

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar one cup at a time and beat until smooth - the butter should return to that state it was at when you first beat it, but grainy with the presence of the sugar. Add the egg replacer or eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated, pausing to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat in until the brown swirls disappear in the mix. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the bowl one cup at a time, beating until just beat - do not overmix! Pastry dough requires a gentle hand, or else the gluten in the flour become overtaxed and stretchy. Then stir in the oats and the chocolate.

If you can muster the wait...CHILL OVERNIGHT. I know, it's the hard-est part.

Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper. Drop the dough by a tablespoon onto the sheet, allowing room for the little guys to grow in the oven (about 10 per sheet). Bake for ten minutes, or until just golden on the top. Great cookies are born from not over-baking. Transfer to wire racks and cool.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chili Sin Carne

As I'm writing, I watch pairs of animals waddle, slither, march and trot outside to an unseen destination. We've entered the thirty-sixth straight hour of rain, and the arc is leaving pronto. Me, I'll stay behind. I can probably finish most of my Christmas shopping before the dove swoops down. Actually, I should really finish, like, yesterday. In my enthusiasm for giving (or perhaps overcompensation for a year of frivolity-free shopping), I am way over budget and I'm running my bank account in the ground. But, damn it, I'll enjoy every step of the way to fiscal ruin.

The weather coupled with the my need to pinch some pennies inspired a one-woman chili cook-off today. Canned beans and root veggies are always in my kitchen for just such situations (Broke! Gloomy! Hungry!). I've been craving the stuff anyway, and thought I'd try to put a spin on an old standby. Sweet potatoes are the new cocoa powder to chili ingredients. There are a gazillion sweet potato chili recipes out there, so it's not as edgy and exciting to me as I once thought. But I still love the idea of those golden-sweet tubers rocking out in a bowl of tomato-and-bean-filled goodness. Boston vegans seem to tirelessly rave about the cashew chili at Trident Cafe; though I am nonplussed by it, I love that idea, too, and invited cashews to the party. And oh yes, there is cocoa powder in the mix. It adds a comforting, dark hue to the dish and a mysterious smokiness - and I was sort of out of chili powder.

Sweet Potato and Cashew Chili

olive oil for saute
1 large onion, diced
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 celery stalks, minced
2 or 3 sweets potatoes (about a pound), peeled and diced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, with the juice
1 15oz can red kidney beans
1 15oz can cannellini beans
2 t cumin
1 t cocoa powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups water or stock
1/2 c unsalted cashews

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and celery. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, tomato, beans, cumin, cocoa powder, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and water. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour, or until the potatoes are tender. In the last five minutes, stir in the cashews (you went them slightly softened, but not mushy). Garnish with cashew pieces. Serves at least 6.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Matters of Great Import

A few observations:

1) Playing bar trivia is always a good way to spend an afternoon.
2) There are few things in creation less attractive than a man naked from only the waist down.
3) There seems to be a great discrepancy in public opinion as the lifespan of leftover pizza.
4) London loves Modest Mouse.

There are a lot of great people writing great things out there. Please, visit the links I've offered and support your independent artists! And food writers in Boston: I want to hear from you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Post Hoc Detox

Not gonna lie, I'm feeling pretty uninspired lately. Cooking quasi-professionally is a quasi-nightmare, and I haven't been cooking much myself lately. I was still recovering from Thanksgiving when along came December. Not to worry; we've bedazzled our nest with all sorts of sparkly wonderment, so that cheers me up (hear me now, that if we had the disposable income, we'd fully be the creepy house on the block with light-up snowmen, animatronic reindeer and trains that follow an endless circular path to nowhere).

In an effort to detox from the last holiday's revelry, I made this miso soup. Really not much cause to write out a recipe. Miso soup is just a couple cups of water, a couple plops of miso paste, some dried seaweed, some tofu cubes, and scallions. Bring the water, seaweed and tofu to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in the miso and scallions, and yir done, son.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Gotta Compost It...Make Less Of It...

Apple cores. Potato peels. Kale ribs. Garlic skin. Corn husks. For years I've been sweeping all sorts of organic, nutrient-rich goodness off my cutting board and into the trash can, wincing every step of the way. I'm finally at a place and time where I can do something about it, and I recently started my own compost bin.

There are so many great resources online aimed at teaching the ways of thrifty, edgy gardening and composting. Such as...? you ask...

You Grow Girl is where I got the template for by bin offers tips and encouragement for a compost endeavor. For example, according to this site, the average household kitchen produces 200lbs of kitchen waste a year. I know most of us aren't cooking for a spouse and 4 hungry kids, but even with our apartment lifestyles, there's plenty of room to grow from there.

This is just a start. The photo above features scraps from today's dinner - Citrus-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup - on its way to a better life.

I was inspired by my trip today to Christina's, the spice store in Inman Square. Truly, truly the adventurous gastronomer's paradise. Rows and rows of exotic and mundane spices, bulk grains and beans, dried chiles and mushrooms...feels like home.
Vietnamese (or Saigon) cinnamon is slightly hotter, spicier and just ballsier than what you'd normally put in cookies or oatmeal. And freshly-ground nutmeg is such a treat. Under its hard, acorn-like exterior you'll find a creamy, brown-speckled interior that looks to much like a chocolate truffle to not be immediately edible. The orange loves to cozy up to these spices. The potato - arguably the secret ingredient - adds a creaminess you thought was only reserved for dairy-based soups (a little starch goes a long way here)

Citrus-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup.

splash of olive oil and a plop of butter (soy margarine), in a pot for saute
1 butternut squash (2-3lbs), peeled and diced
1 or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 or 2 boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
1 orange - you'll need the zest and juice (or 1/4 c orange juice)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 nutmeg, grated
Good pinch of Vietnamese cinnamon (1/4-1/2 tsp)
pinch of sea salt
4-6 cups water

Grate the orange to zest, setting the zest aside. Save the fruit. Heat the oil and butter in a pan. When the butter is just melted, add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the squash, sweets and boiling potatoes. Stir in the orange zest. Squeeze juice the naked orange over the pot (or just add the o.j.). Stir to coat with the oil and juice. Add the water, 2 cups at a time - you want just a little more than what covers the potatoes. Turn up the heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove cover, reduce heat, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are tender (spear with a fork to test the doneness). Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the cinnamon and salt, grate the nutmeg over the pot and stir in the spices. Taste to adjust the seasonings to your taste. Serve in bowls with a little nutmeg grating as a garnish if you've got your fancy pants on. (I'll be eating my soup with the flax seed crackers from the other day!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

One Broken Cracker

They call me Grace. On Saturday I smashed my pinkie toe to oblivion (a Bolivian?) and spent roughly thirty-six hours in bed with my injured little phalange on ice, resting atop a pillow. Sounds downright regal, and maybe it was for the little guy, but the rest of me has been bored bored bored. I plowed through most of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I have plenty to say on that work, namely: Emma, you're right - I'm completely ready to quit the world and start a farm. I diverge with her slightly when it comes to her theory on "carnivory." (The quotes are not meant to be derisive, just to indicate that that is her word). She says that an animal-free diet is a luxury for the affluent Northern Hemisphere, indicating that the claim that vegetarianism can save the world is biased against the truly poor. A good point, a sort of Guns, Germs and Steel argument, but guess what? Having enough cash on hand to pack up your family and drive across the country to your already- extant farmland - where you're able to take the risk of not having a harvest bountiful enough to feed the kin - sounds like a bit of a luxury to me. Let's face it: buying, and ideally raising, free-range eggs and meat and hormone-free dairy is not an immediate option for the general public. Not that I wouldn't love it... but in the meantime, I'll have to stick to my heavily-traveled tofu and go to sleep at night knowing that, yes, a lot of bunnies died under the plows that harvested that soystuff.

Gloom and doom, right? Maybe not. I was inspired enough before the Accident to start a compost bin! Very fun and fulfilling project. More on that when I can hobble outside to shoot it before the sun goes down. While I was laid up, I of course leafed through some culinary classics, both old and new. When I finally got on my feet today, the first thing I made was a batch of whole-wheat flax crackers from the seminal How It All Vegan!. My relationship with the book is a complicated one. Are there better (read: less preachy) vegan primers out there? Absolutely. Is there when that speaks more clearly to the bad-ass, good-life, post-punk zeitgest? Not for my money. And do I have a borderline-inappropriate girl-crush on Sarah Kramer? ...I'm working on it, ok? Obviously I can't reprint this recipe (I'm waiting for the day where something on here gets me sued), but check it out on page 124 of the tome. Super healthy and super easy to make! A gratifying way to get off my ass and back into the kitchen

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Stocking Me

It's cold.

Not that "passing-cold-front-should-warm-up-tomorrow" cold, but the "hey-suckahs-remember-me?" incumbent New England winter kind of cold. The darkness is settled in comfortably with its feet up on the table by 4:30, and it's hard, for me at least, to get much done after that. On the flip side, the days have been so impossibly bright and beautiful that I feel like my face might explode when I look up at the azure sky through the filter of the vibrant remaining leaves. So I guess I'm saying that yes, it sucks, but it could suck worse.

For example, I'm really happy that the season of stocks is upon us. There's little more satisfying than the smell of earthy vegetables simmering in a warm, cozy, boiling bath of herb-infused water. Then to strain it, store it, serve it, while knowing that it's something you made - as is inevitably more tasty and healthful than even the best organic guys you can get at a store. I highly recommend getting in the habit of making stock to have on hand. Arm yourself - you're gonna want it this winter.

J'hab's Basic Veggie Stock

Use well-washed organic veggies here. They taste infinitely better, and you really don't want those pesticides and waxes washing off into your stock. Benzene Bisque? Not so much.

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh parsley
pinch of sea salt
a few peppercorns
olive oil for sauteing
6 cups water

Heat the olive oil over medium in a large...stockpot. Add the onion and garlic and saute until fragrant but not browned (if the skins burn, it'll impart a charred flavor to your delicate stock). Add the carrot and onion and turn to coat with the olive oil. Add the water, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and parsley. Cover, crank the heat and bring to a boil. Remove cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45min-1hr. You can add more water if the level reduces too much. In that time, arm your sink with a strainer and a large bowl. Remove from heat. Pour the liquid over the strainer and into the bowl. Now, use a spoon to press out the excess liquid in the veggies (an extra pair of hands hear to hold the strainer is really, well...handy). Seal the stock in a tightly shut container, refrigerate and use within 5 days. Or divvy up into smaller containers and freeze for up to a month.

Stocks can be flighty, but they're also easily personalized. This one is the ultimate in simplicity and truly universal. Add potato peels to make a slightly thicker stock, one that'll hold its own against coups with potatoes, beans, and the like. Try throwing in some ginger and lemongrass to make some killer Thai soups.

Tooling around the interwebs today, I found this great blog: Not Eating Out In New York. I really like the cut of her jive - check it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Most Hated of All Loaves

Ah, meatloaf. I truly did loathe the loaf as a kid, and we ate a lot of it. A pound of ground beef mixed up with packaged bread crumbs and a raw egg, smothered in Heinz and left to gel in the oven. And yet I have fond memories as my mom's meatloaf technique improved. I remember sitting on the stool at bar of our kitchen, watching her dice up green peppers from the garden and portion out mozzerella for the mix. I would inevitably grab a pinch of the cheese and pair it with the tangy, citrusy pepper for a secret snack as she cooked. The ketchup never left the equation.

The subject of meatloaf came up at work today. A group of us could not figure out why a restaurant (including ours) would feature it on a menu, and what would prompt any right-minded customer to order it. We further mused on how meatloaf is simply an economical way for a working-class family to feed the masses - certainly that was the case in my childhood. Funny how all those cupboard ingredients can bond together to make a meal.

That made me nostalgic for my mom, and how she managed to feed the six of us, maybe without a lot of taste, but with much intent and necessity. In these lean, uncertain times, I think vegans and carnivores alike would do well to put their pantries to the test and see what meals lurk on those shelves, just waiting to be made. With that, I give you my first real, uninterpreted vegan recipe: Vegan Meatloaf. These are all goodies that I had on hand - w00t! The cooked lentils give of a nutty, spicy aroma, and when squished together with the vegetable saute, bring about the squishy texture of meatloaf that, despite the ick factor, I used to love watch my mom squeeze through her fingers

1 cup dry lentils
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and drained (moisture pressed out)
3 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and ripped into tiny pieces (2 cups bread crumbs)
1/2 t baking powder
olive oil
1/4 nutritional yeast
a few leaves of basil, chopped (or 1/2 t dried)
a few parsley sprigs, chopped
pinch of cayenne pepper
generous grinding of pepper and a bit of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To cook lentils, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils and return to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes and allow to cool.

Add a splash of olive oil to a medium saute pan and warm over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and pepper and cook until softened and fragrant, about another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Take a quarter cup of the frozen spinach and, in a small bowl, add the baking powder. Puree with an immersion blender (or use a food processor) until gooey. You're looking for a mixture with the consistency of a raw egg - you may need to add a bit of water and a splash of olive oil to achieve this effect.

In a large bowl, combine the veggie saute, breadcrumbs, spinach-egg replacer, remaining frozen spinach, herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne, and the lentils. Now the fun part - mix with your hands, squeezing until the lentils are mush and mixed well with the veggies. Spray a standard-sized loaf pan with non-stick spray and add the mixture, tapping the bottom on a surface to make sure it's all settled. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden-brown and slightly crusty on top. Allow to cool ten minutes before slicing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's All Nice, Black Rice, All Right

Long time, no post! It's been a busy bought with lots of work, reading, research, farmers' marketing and kitchen testing. I found Heidi Swanson's booked used (!) at the Booksmith the other day, just after Vini bought a copy and I began to pine for it. A nice little "what's up" from the universe. I made Heidi's Roasted Pumpkin Salad both at home and on the job this week (yeah, we're on a first name basis, so what?). It's exquisite, though I made the following changes: a) I cut the down on the amount of olive oil in the dressing - I found there was enough oil present from the roasting and the sunflower seeds in the dressing. b) I used butternut squash, an apt substitute for the pumpkin. c) I used black rice in place of wild rice. If you have not cooked with black rice (aka "forbidden rice), you must. I picked it up at the co-op a few weeks back and decimated my supply for this recipe. I will be biking back ASAP to replenish my supply! Its nutty flavor is encased in a firm, purple-black husk that reveals a pleasantly mealy, chewy texture. It will always have a home in my pantry. It did create quite a purply-hued mess of my white stove top after I first cooked it, but hey, no relationship is perfect.

Monday, October 6, 2008


October arrived with a solid agenda: to wipe out the healthy. One by one we've fallen to the whim of a head- and chest cold with the fervor and mucus factor usually reserved for mid-February. (To those in the know, it's been dubbed the Lene Virus). Yuck. Anyway, I've given this soup a couple trial runs, and I'm very happy with the results, both in taste and medicinal value. Slivers of fresh ginger and bits of nearly-raw garlic swimming in rich, nutritious vegetable broth, it's sure to have your mouth tingling and your sinuses (temporarily) cleared by the end of the bowl. And the noodles harken back to the days when a can of chicken noodle and a plate of Ritz crackers made the sick days off from school bearable and tasty.

PS: I couldn't take a picture of this lovely-looking dish. My camera is on vacation on the rocky coast of Maine. Wish I was there... in lieu I have a picture of Elizabeth housing a plate of tofu. Add it to the litany of reasons why she's the best niece eva.

Sicky Soup

For the marinade:
1/8 c soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T (or more) fresh ginger, peeled and slivered

1/4 brick firm tofu, cut into tiny cubes
1 T canola or peanut oil
1-2 oz whole wheat pasta or soba noodles, broken into small pieces
1 1/2 c vegetable broth

scallions for garnish

Combine the marinade in a bowl, whisking the ingredients together. Add the tofu and toss to coat, saving the marinade. While it sits, cook the pasta and drain and heat the broth over a gentle heat, taking care not to boil. In a small pan sprayed with nonstick spray, add the oil and heat over med-high until hot. Add the tofu cubes and cook for a good three minutes, unturned, until the moisture starts to give and they're nicely browed. Turn and let another side brown for a couple minutes, then dump onto a paper towel (I hardly had the patience to brown each side). Reduce heat and add the marinade, stir-frying garlic and ginger for half a minute or less. In a bowl, combine the tofu, the ginger and garlic, the broth and the noodles. Top with chopped scallions of you have any kicking around (I nabbed mine from work).

This serves one. Just double up if you've got multiple sickies to feed. If you're lucky enough to have someone make this for you, then set 'em to work. If not, you're still lucky - just be strong, pull yourself out of bed, make a cup of tea and get to the kitchen. You'll feel less sick knowing you were able to make it yourself (or at least, I did). My favorite yoga teacher once said: "You gotta be able to take care of yourself... 'cause if you wait around for someone to take care of you, you're gonna end up waiting a looong time." MMM-hmmm. Tell it, sistah-friend.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

High Fructose Propaganda


I just don't even know what to say. I think the most alarming thing about this is not that Big Food is fighting back, but that there are people out there who will see this on the tee-vee and believe this. If it weren't for that fact, it'd almost be funny.

There are a series of these, I suppose. My friend Beth and I have been keeping tabs in our outrage - there are at least three. If you need me, I'll be spending the rest of the day with my head submerged in a mound of dirt.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fake Can Be Just As Good

Oh, Paul McCartney. You may not have been my favorite Beatle, but your doe-eyed gaze and jowly smile always secured you a place in my heart. Maybe it's because of the aforementioned animalistic traits that you've so long been a champion for the vegetarian lifestyle. Now I know that loving and losing a compassionate, bodacious Amazonian babe like Heather Mills must have been hard enough, so I won't relate you to this story: 

Wow, a boatload of vegan vittles! I was psyched by the headline. As I clicked on the link, I wondered what kinda goods we were talking about: was it going to be a sort of Food-Not-Bombs  affair? 

Not s'much. More like partially-hydrolyzed soy salvation. An onslaught of fake chicken, soy dogs and veggie burgers. Now, here's the deal. I love, love, love the way these things taste. Oh geez. The texture of those chik'n patties is so close to real deal that when I first tasted them, it opened up this wave of nostalgia for the real thing (in my childhood, those frozen chicken patties would inevitably be served on a white hamburger bun with applesauce and frozen peas. Holla if ya hear me). But tasty as they are, I've been trying to weed them out of my diet. Those guys are addled with sodium, fake flavors, HFCS and processed, GM-soy - all the stuff of Big Foods dreams. I didn't want to admit it, but I eventually realized that they are but the sad, frozen ghosts of a vegetable. I spent a very sad, single year subsiding on little more than beer and Trader Joe's soy nuggets with barbeque sauce - and I wondered why my broken heart wouldn't heal! 

I'm sure it's a well-minded act that I really have no place whatsoever harshing on. But it's good leverage to raise the point that just 'cause it's called "vegetarian" doesn't mean it's de facto good for you (and, btw HM/AP - not all those puppies are vegan). Now I need to eat. I just got out of work, and I'm starving. And I have a wicked jones for a Veggie Samurai Dog from Spikes. Damn it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh, these sour times

These are troubled times, my friend. I wish I better understood what's happening on Wall Street, but shoot, I spent my college years sneering at the kids in the School of Management. So having failed to make the proper contacts, all I know is that the mortgage crisis has sunk its teeth into any colored collar it can find - white, blue, and anything in between. I can testify that it has certainly affected the restaurant industry. Sales are at a harrowing low every shift I've worked in the last two weeks. All year, in fact, people are eating out less, which as a waitress, I loathe to admit, and as a human, I embrace.

While shopping for my other venture as a personal cook today, I kept the economy in mind as I made my frugal choices. Two tips of the trade: 1) Buy bulk! I visited the Harvest Co-op today and felt like little Laura Ingalls at the general store, in honest awe of all the tantalizing choices and beautiful colors. And 2) Visit your farmer's market! I had an incredibly stressful day, and it's not just the economy, but being at the market amongst all this fresh goodness just lifted my spirits.

And in the interest of frugality, here's what I'm planning on making tomorrow. When you buy the dry goods in bulk, it's cheap cheap cheap!

Fruit-and-Nut Pilaf
1 cup brown rice
2 cups veggie stock or water
1/2 cup roasted almonds and/or pecans
1/4 each slivered dried apricots and raisins
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce

Cook rice according to directions. In the last few minutes of cooking, add dried fruit. Fluff rice and add the nuts. With the heat still on, add oil and stir in gently. Season with soy sauce.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When Raita Met Salsa

September has yet to assert itself as the summery type of the autumn-y kind. Today's been overcast and healthfully gloomy, and I made it home from a run just before this cool rain started. Tomorrow promises to be sunny and 75. So while the seasons remain in flux, I am torn by what to cook. I want to seize the last of the sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes, but I'm also giddy at the site of squash and brussels sprouts at the farmers' market. What's a girl to do??

I whipped this up yesterday in the spirit of seasonal limbo, and of using the produce I had kicking around. I don't quite know what it is (it's a mix between a raita and a salsa) or what to do with it (too chunky to be a sauce, too light to be a proper salad). In essence, it's not a moment of culinary perfection. But it's delicious but strange, refreshing but stimulating, exotic yet homey.   

Apple-Cucumber Sorta Like-a Raita
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 sweet apple (Gala, Empire, Pink Lady), diced
1 new, white onion (not the yellow, papery kind), diced
splash of olive oil
juice from half a lemon
handful of fresh parsley, minced
sprinkle of sea salt

Mix it up in a bowl, take a bit, and ponder - what am I eating?

My guinea pig for this experiment likened it to cantaloupe -  I guess that' the sweetness of the apple and the texture of the cuke talking. This might work with tofu sour cream or soy yogurt.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Small Packages

Proving that that's really where good things come from, The New York Times featured an article yesterday that highlighted an encouraging deviation from the bigger-is-better business plan so prevalent in food retailers. Apparently the grocery giants are taking a cue from Trader Joe's and small-scale vendors who sell smaller quantities of better stuff. The midwest's Jewel-Osco, the ubiquitous Giant, and even - brace yourself - WalMart, are opening smaller versions of their megamarts to cater to the harried consumer who hardly has the time or inkling to peruse forty types of yogurt and eighteen varieties of peanut butter on her lunch break. The goal is to rope 'em in and spit 'em out in ten minutes or less, after which they're happily armed with the evening's dinner and arsenal of paper towels.

I feel positive but skeptical about this trend. On the one hand, it indicates that there is a demand to choose less over more, which is a healthy blow to the ethos of over-consumption. And that push has to be pretty firm to reach the guys and gals in the big, windowed offices. On the other hand, it's slightly disheartening, since it plays into this whole gulp-and-go mentality that has become too ingrained in our culture for Alice Waters and the Slow Food-ers to battle alone.  But hell, I'll take what I can get.

Also, I loved this article about cookbook maven and certified badass Marcella Hazan. This feisty old broad knows that produce ain't what it used to be, and that an artichoke the size of a Nerf ball does not belong in her hallowed roasting pan. Preach it, Senora!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Patience, Young Grasshopper

It's officially the unofficial beginning of fall: a couple hasty trees have begun to turn, the mornings' cool lasts until at least noon, and September 1st - that tragic circus where the city's student populace migrates en masse from one slum to another - has passed. I realized that day that for the first time in years, I had nothing to do with the traffic jams, the jaywalking, or the sinful amount of trash disposal that are inherent to National Moving Day. I almost wept with joy, and I was overwhelmed with the sense of "in yo ' FACE" -itude as I watched the parade of U-Hauls crawl through Brookline and Allston.

But, oh, Allston. This time of year floods me with nostalgic and wistful memories of that place. I spent the most blissfully unaware and recklessly irresponsible years of my youth in Allston Rock City. There was drinking and partying and falling in love and when we had the time and money, oh, we ate. I can't write a vegetarian blog in Boston without touching on that timeless vegan mecca: Grasshopper. Grasshopper, where the tea was inexplicably free and flowed like water from the Ganges, where the No-Name miraculously cured (or exaggerated)  any hangover, and where duct-taped, punk-rock wallets would creak open to pay real American dollars for real un-American food.

This recipe is a sort of homage to #69: Spicy Black Peppers & Garlic Seitan, a dish that inevitably found its way to our table when we went there. Like me, it's a little different now than when I first started making it years ago. And like Grasshopper, I'm frankly kind of over it now, but I keep it around, largely for the memory, and the deliciousness.

Veggie Lo Mein with Sesame-Garlic Seitan 

1 package seitan, sliced into strips, juice reserved
1 green and red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 T sesame seeds, toasted
Tons of garlic, cut into slivers (use at least three cloves, the more the merrier)
1/2 inch ginger, sliced
3 T canola oil
1/2 package noodles (to keep it ghetto, use 50-cent enriched spaghetti; for your health, use whole-wheat spaghetti or soba noodles)
Scallions, for garnish (not for the broke) 

-Cook pasta, drain, set aside (but you already knew that)
-Heat a small frying pan over med-low. Add sesame seeds and toast, shaking pan often, until the first couple ones pop, browned and fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.
-Heat a large frying pan or wok over med. Add oil. Test heat by adding a sliver of garlic. When it sizzles, add garlic and saute for until just browned- not burned. Add ginger and stir.
-Add pepper strips and cook until softened, about six to eight minutes 
-Add seitan and its reserved marinade cook until browned.
-Stir in sesame seeds, reserving a bit for garnish (if you're feeling fancy)
-Stir in noodles. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds or scallions, or simply devour from the pot with chopsticks hoarded from various Chinese restaurants 

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Blog Is Born

Here it is, kids: blog post the first.  I've gone back and forth on what I want this blog to entail, what I want to convey, and I'd be a big, fat liar if I said I had a cohesive game-plan to execute. But here's what I know:

I've been vegetarian for almost ten years.  I'm very committed to health and wellness and not putting crap in one's body. I also love, love, love to cook.  I have no formal culinary training (yet), but I know that nothing makes me happier than cooking up a good meal or morsel for myself and the people I care about.  I've spent several years reading up on food politics, veganism and vegetarianism, agribusiness and agriculture, and I devour cookbooks like Harlequin novels. That being said, I've amassed a host of ideas and opinions that I want to put out there for anyone, like me, who's looking (not all those who wander are lost!). 

Here you'll find a collection of recipes I've been working on, book and restaurant reviews, news, and my own chronicles as I try to establish myself as a cook and a figure in Boston's locavorious vegetarian community.  Cross ya fingahs fah me!