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 


paladar apurado said...

nice writing girl... can't wait for the next posting. it's funny; I am also creating a blog on my culinary and eating adventures in the US.

if you're interested in food writing, I'm now reading "will write for food" by Dianne Jacob. it's a great guide to writing cookbooks, restaurant reviews and more.

P.S.: we need to hang out more often.

Jessica Habalou said...

Vini, thank you so much for your kind words and input! I will absolutely check out that book, and I cannot wait for you to start writing! PS, I just got back from NYC, where my sister and I went to this amazing store called Kitchen Arts & Letters - it sells only cookbooks and food-related literature, and it's the largest in the country. I could have spent a fortune! Put it on your list for when you go to the city, fo'sho.

Let's all have dinner ASAP

Emma said...

hey jess, i love this! and i'm so happy to revisit memories of grasshopper and #69-- though it feels good to have some distance from that time of my life. i definitely will make this recipe and will report back.