Archive forJuly, 2009

Tomato Rasam

I often order tomato rasam as a starter in Indian restaurants because I love the tomato-y, sour, super-spicy flavor of it. Seeing super-ripe, very flavorful tomatoes at the farmers’ market makes me think of it and this week I managed to keep Mark off the four large tomatoes I bought, so I was very excited to make rasam with them tonight. I based my recipe off Indira’s version on Mahanandi, though I also tried to make it taste like what I get at the restaurant down the street from us. To make it more like the latter, I think I need to spice it up a bit more next time, but this was delicious and Mark, who doesn’t normally like Indian food (what’s wrong with him?!) really liked it, too.

Tomato Rasam

4 large, very ripe tomatoes
2″ piece tamarind
2 cups water, divided
1″ lump jaggery, or 1 Tbsp brown sugar
a few springs fresh cilantro, or cheat like me and used a lump of frozen cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 dried red chilis + 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (or whatever amount/combination gives the heat you can tolerate)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp asoefetida
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp oil (I used mustard oil)

Core the tomatoes.

Chop them roughly and place in large bowl (or right in the soup pot so as to not dirty a dish unnecessarily).

Here is what tamarind looks like when you buy it in a package. I think it looks like nougat. You can also buy tamarind concentrate, which I always have on hand, but since you have to squeeze the tomatoes I figured I’d squeeze the tamarind right along with them (as Indira describes).

Break off a piece of the tamarind and put in the bowl with the tomatoes. Tamarind purchased this way contains the stones of the fruit. If you feel one when you are squeezing, you can remove it, but you need not worry about it because the soup will be strained later.

Add a cup of water to the bowl or pot, wash your hands, then stick them in and start squeezing! Try to grab and squeeze some of the tamarind every time because it needs a bit more massaging than the tomatoes to break down. Here’s the bowl after a minute or so of squeezing:

Continue until the tomatoes are well broken up.

If the tomatoes are in a bowl, transfer to a large soup pot. Add the remaining water, jaggery or sugar, cilantro, salt and pepper, ground coriander and ground cumin, and chili peppers and/or flakes.

Meanwhile, heat a mere 1/4 tsp of oil in a small frying pan, then add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and fry until the mustard seeds pop, then add to the soup.

Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. I like mine pretty sour and when it didn’t taste sour enough to me, I added some tamarind concentrate.

Place a colander into a large bowl (it doesn’t matter if seeds and other small matter pass through, so I didn’t use a sieve because they are so hard to clean) , then pour the rasam into it.

Push down on the tomatoes with the back of a soon or a spatula.

Remove the strainer and there’s your rasam!

You can eat it plain, or do as we did and put some rice in your bowl …

… and then add the soup.

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Miso Check-in and Tofu Mayo

Some of you may recall that back in January I made miso. It takes a year to fully ferment, but you can try it after six months and my six months were up on July 19th. It dawned on me today that July 19th is not, in fact, weeks in the future, but in the past. WHERE HAS THIS SO-CALLED SUMMER GONE?? Anyway, the anticipation was killing me. Had I been incubating something horrible for the last six months or was there really, truly edible miso in that white crock??

Several scenarios sailed through my head, but what I was not expecting was to remove the weight and find…

a dark liquid covering the plate. (Those lighter-colored things on the right are the pattern on the otherwise gray plate. This picture is a bit of an optical illusion.)

It dawned me, however, that what that liquid was was soy sauce! Indeed, I think it is, because you make soy sauce from soy and koji as well. It was pretty salty (I was real brave and tasted it) and there wasn’t much of it, so I just drained it off, removed the plate and the plastic wrap, and discovered this:

Miso! I think the parts that are grayish are really just indentations from the plastic wrap, and the circle is the indentation from the bottom of the plate the weight sat on. Nonetheless, I’ve read that the top layer of miso isn’t very good, so I scraped it away …

… and removed some of the good stuff with a spoon.

It’s real miso! It’s not gross! I’m as surprised as you are, trust me. To taste it, I heated a small amount of water to just under boiling and stirred some miso in. This is the most basic miso soup you can make.

It tasted fine, so I removed a little bit to use now, then packed the rest of it back down …

… covered with fresh plastic wrap …

… put the plate back on it (here you can see the pattern that looked a bit weird under the soy sauce), and the weight, and sealed it back up to wait another six months.

Here’s the bit I reserved; I’ll think of something fun to do with some of it this week. I have plenty of commercial miso, but I’m dying to see what mine tastes like in every day use!

Next up, last week when I mentioned using xantham gum as a thickener, a few people were interested. Lou asked me about using it in tofu mayo so I figured I’d try it and see. So this is for Lou.

I started with Bryanna’s recipe, using 5/8 tsp Indian black salt (which I use when I want something to seem “eggy”…and also because I bought a ton of it at the Indian grocery yesterday and I have more than I can store), one tablespoon canola oil, one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and one tablespoon lemon juice. After tasting it, I thought it was too lemony (which is weird, I love lemon, which is why I used it, but it was a little overly “bright” for mayo, I thought), and I added maybe half a tablespoon Dijon mustard at Lou’s suggestion. I liked it much better then. Here’s the texture, with no thickener:

It’s a bit hard to see, but although it’s creamy and somewhat thick, it is a little runnier than real mayo is (I think – it’s been ten years or more since I’ve used real mayo!).

I started adding xantham gum by the 1/8 teaspoon, blending it in thoroughly using the food processor (really, it’s a Sumeet Asia Grinder, but for this purpose, it’s a food processor). To my surprise, 1/8 and even 1/2 teaspoon did nothing discernible to the texture. Finally I added what made a full teaspoon of xantham gum, blended thoroughly, and let it sit about five minutes. I don’t know if the change in texture is really apparent in the photos, but it did become more mayo-y:

I think I can therefore report to Lou that she may like the results if she wants to play around with her mayo recipe using xantham gum. This may actually be closer to a mayo texture than Vegenaise is, although I consider Vegenaise a pretty perfect product.

I wouldn’t ordinarily use this amount of mayo in the two weeks that Bryanna says it’s good for, so I may be turning this into my coveted ranch dip this week. It’d be really great if I could make the ranch dip guilt-free because it’s really, really good, but it’s not really, really good for you. I’ll keep you posted.

Remember the book pillow I made? Brachtune sometimes does this completely adorable thing where she sleeps with her head on it, but yesterday I found her apparently under the impression it’s a computer!

Also, I was able to use the pool all weekend – woo! The website I use for weather has been predicting intense hail and thunderstorms all day, but in reality it was warm and sunny and gorgeous – perfect pool weather – and I’ve yet to see a hint of hail. Not that I’m complaining! Thunderstorms are predicted for the rest of the week, however. It’s incredible the number of thunderstorms we’ve had this summer. Thursday night, Mark, Fortinbras, and I saw the National Symphony Orchestra perform Carmina Burana, one of my favourite pieces of music, at Wolf Trap, during a violent thunderstorm that lasted the entire show, rain beating down around us and lightning filling the sky. Although I felt sorry for the hardy souls on the lawn, it was actually a pretty cool way to experience the concert, and the performance was excellent. I really do like thunderstorms – I may have been the only bride on the planet to hope for thunderstorms on her wedding day (didn’t get my wish) – and I appreciated the one Thursday night, but I’m begging the weather gods to let me continue to use the pool!

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2666 Brussels sprouts

No, I didn’t buy 2,666 Brussels sprouts. What I did was read a book with 2,666 pages. Okay, not really. It was 898 pages and it was called 2666. I finished it a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with it, but it consists of five parts that are only loosely related. The third is The Part about Fate (Fate being a person) and it contains a character named Barry Seaman, who delivers a long speech that contains a recipe for Brussels sprouts. You read that right. So I decided to make those Brussels sprouts!

Here is the original, direct from the book:

I see lots of fat people in this church, he said. I suspect few of you eat green vegetables. maybe now is the time for a recipe. The name of the recipe is: Brussels Sprouts with Lemon. Take note, please. Four servings calls for: two pounds of brussels sprouts, juice and zest of one lemon, one onion, one sprig of parsley, three tablespoons of butter, black pepper, and salt. You make it like so. One: Clean sprouts well and remove outer leaves. Finely chop onion and parsley. Two: In a pot of salted boiling water, cook sprouts for twenty minutes, or until tender. Then drain well and set aside. Three: Melt butter in frying pan and lightly saute onion, add zest and juice of lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Four: Add brussels sprouts, toss with sauce, reheat for a few minutes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges on the side. So good you’ll be licking your fingers, said Seaman. No cholesterol, good for the liver, good for the blood pressure, very healthy.

Now, I don’t know where Seaman got the idea his recipe does not contain cholesterol, because it certainly does, unless by “butter” he meant “vegan margarine,” which I doubt. My interpretation, of course, is cholesterol-free! The only change I made was the margarine, and dried parsley since I didn’t have any fresh.

Barry Seaman’s Brussels Sprouts with Lemon


2 lbs Brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
2-3 Tbsp vegan margarine
1 onion, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp dried parsley (or a sprig of fresh, minced)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash and trim those sprouts.

Bring a pot of water to a boil then add some salt and the sprouts. Cook until tender (15 to 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, zest …

… and juice the lemon.

And mince the onion.

When the sprouts are tender, drain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking.

In a large frying pan or a wok, heat the margarine …

… then add the onions and parsley and fry for 5 minute or until soft.

Stir in the lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper.

The toss in the sprouts and cook just until heated through.

I’m sorry I forgot to include my lemon wedge because it brightened up the plate, but here’s the meal:

What do I think of the culinary prowess of Mr Seaman? It was an okay change of pace, but I prefer my roasted Brussels sprouts, and I suspect Mark does as well because he didn’t eat as many as usual. But I still thought it was fun to cook from a novel. I should pay more attention to food in the books I read and try to recreate some fictional meals. You don’t usually get a character telling you exactly how to make a dish but it would be fun to make things up.

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Party Leftover Chili

As far as I am concerned, my grandmother’s chili is chili. It’s a pretty simple recipe, but I guess because it’s what I grew up with, it’s the definitive chili in my opinion. Nonetheless, when I came across this recipe last week, I considered it fortuitous because it calls for a bunch of stuff that I had left over from last weekend’s party. I had leftover beer, tortilla chips and an entire jar of salsa brought by thoughtful guests. This recipe takes care of all that stuff! Here’s how I veganized it.

Alton Brown’s Pressure Cooker Chili

1 1/2 lbs your favorite seitan (if you are like many people, Kittee’s seitan may well be your favorite)
1 1/2 lbs soaked pinto and kidney beans –> Okay, I dropped the ball on this one by not weighing these before I soaked them; I merely soaked all I had left of both kinds, then weighed after soaking. I’d say maybe a pound unsoaked? There’s no need to be exact anyway.
1 tsp salt
1 bottle of beer
1 beer bottle full of water (12 oz) –> this is twice as much liquid as called for in the original recipe, however, you need it for cooking the beans.
1 jar of salsa
1/2 can chipotles in adobo sauce (chilis + sauce)
2 cups tortilla chips (whole or fragments, whatever)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder

Chop seitan into bite-sized pieces.

Place a couple tablespoons of oil (I used peanut as Alton Brown suggested) in a pressure cooker, then fry the seitan until golden brown.

Pour about half the bottle of beer into the cooker and deglaze the pot, scraping all the browned bits off.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients except the tortilla chips.

Add the tortilla chips and give a quick stir.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring up to pressure on medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low or low (the lowest setting at which you can keep the pressure) and cook for 30 minutes. Use a quick-release method to release pressure (i.e., hold pot under cold running water until pressure is released).

Garnish with vegan sour cream if you’d like and eat with additional tortilla chips.

This was great: very tasty, very easy, very fast, and I felt so great about using up all those party leftovers! The original was an all-meat, beanless chili, but I thought it would be seitan overload if I used all seitan, plus I love beans and I thought they made for a great texture. The pintos were creamy and the kidneys had just enough texture to provide a contrast.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll have to cook it (in a Dutch oven or large pot) for several hours until the beans are done. Or just used canned beans (which I wouldn’t recommend in the pressure cooker because they’ll overcook): I’d probably use two cans pinto and 1 can kidney, but you can use whatever you like.

Incidentally, we don’t have cable TV and I therefore only ever get to watch the Food Network when we’re at Mark’s mom’s house or on vacation somewhere, and I’ve never seen Alton Brown’s show. I’m so out of touch. I always thought he was the “science” guy of cooking, though, (and kind of cute – some people think Mark looks like him and I’ve seen photos where that’s true), so I figured I’d like him. I was surprised to see things like jarred salsa and tortilla chips in one of his recipes. It just seemed more like a Sandra Lee (wow, I saw her show on a Virgin flight one time and I wanted to throw up) thing to do. Or Paula Deen (saw her show on the same flight and also wanted to throw up, for a different reason: she used about a pound of butter to make everything). Or am I overreacting? Jarred salsa isn’t bad: I use it sometimes. It’s even an ingredient in my famous nacho cheese. It’s just that I find it an unusual ingredient in a professional recipe because you can’t control what brand the user will purchase and they are so different. Not that I think TV chefs want to control people, but it seems a certain salsa could make or break their recipe. If I were writing a recipe, I’d probably just include individual salsa ingredients in the recipe. Then again, I have to admit I didn’t specifically taste the salsa in the finished recipe so I probably have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m probably being snobby. And also, I was delighted the recipe called for jarred salsa because I had so much of it!

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Quick Dinner with Sushi Rice

What with all the excitement of having Smucky here, I haven’t had a chance to post anything, which is okay because I haven’t really cooked anything spectacular. I figured I’d pop in and say hi this evening, though I still haven’t cooked anything spectacular, so you don’t forget about me. Food-wise, I am still recovering from the party last weekend. For example, I ate so many leftover chips with salsa as a snack late this afternoon that it wasn’t until 9:30 tonight that I even bothered asking Mark what he wanted for dinner. He told me not to worry about dinner, but I offered to make him some rice, his favorite food. He expected me to throw some sushi rice in the rice cooker and call it a meal – and he’d have been perfectly happy with that – but I simply can not serve a meal that consists entirely of rice. I am compelled to at least serve something on the side and include more than one vegetable. So here’s what I did:

I made the sushi rice as normal: sprinkling it with salt and sushi vinegar when it was done cooking, then mixing them in. Then I slivered about a cup of the yellow baby carrots I had leftover the party, as well as about 2/3 of an orange bell pepper. These I sauteed together with about half a cup cooked frozen edamame. Then I tossed the veggies with a sauce that consisted of 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 2 teaspoons chili garlic paste, 3 drops stevia, and a splash of rice vinegar, thickened with a pinch of xantham gum.

I had much of a head of iceberg lettuce leftover, purchased to alleviate a party guest’s falafel craving, so I threw together a very simple salad of lettuce, carrot, cucumber, and celery. For the dressing I combined 3 tablespoons olive oil, a 1-inch piece of ginger, grated, 1 tablespoon mirin, salt and freshly ground pepper, and 3 tablespoons of a batch of kombucha tea that had turned to vinegar. The latter is a very mild, sweet vinegar which I wouldn’t expect anyone to have (it’s a mistake I even have it); to substitute for it, use 1 to 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or sushi vinegar).

Mark entered the kitchen, perplexed. “I thought you were just making rice. There’s an awful lot of food here for ‘just making rice’.” I know. I can’t make anything easy. Sue me. Or eat the delicious results and shut up! Not counting the rice, which was just made in the rice cooker anyway, this meal took about 10 minutes to throw together.

Yesterday Mark and I drove up to Baltimore to go to Artscape, at the beckoning of Fortinbras. Despite the fact that I for years lived about a mile and a half from the area Artscape is held, I never managed to attend it while I lived in Baltimore. I discovered why yesterday. It’s full of people. Which isn’t to say Artscape isn’t cool or anything – it is – but it was very, very crowded and I just do not like crowds.

I was absolutely famished when we arrived, and I get very cranky when I’m hungry, so the first thing we needed to do was find food. Fortunately this was easy, and there was even a vegetarian food stand at the first food court we encountered. I was carrying a huge camera bag containing several lenses, the camera itself slung around my neck, as well as the lemonade I purchased to go with my meal, and the two “veggie chicken” kabobs I bought, yet I still managed to get a picture of the kabobs for you. Mark asked me what the heck I was doing, as he thought I was crazy. It was a bit crazy to stand in the middle of an extremely crowded festival wearing a heavy camera bag, holding a lemonade, and take a picture of two kabobs I was holding in one hand. Please enjoy the results of my insanity:

The kabobs were very good, but not filling enough. I had to return ten minutes later and get a veggie wrap. Then we started exploring the festival and trying to find our friends: in addition to Fortinbras, we were looking for our friends Brad and April. The Charles Street bridge near the Jones Falls Expressway was festooned in streamers and various sideshow booths. It was extremely crowded. You can see Penn Station in the background of this photo:

There are several art cars in Baltimore, many of which were at Artscape. Here’s my favorite, although I couldn’t get far enough away from it to show that there is actually a car under all those hands.

I noticed that what I had previously taken to be a bizarre but exclusively Northern Virginia phenomenon – teeth whitening and dental services at street festivals and county fairs – has migrated to Baltimore. Here’s an inflatable dental spa, because nothing says “I like art” like a dental spa:

Artscape is a free event. It encompasses three days, several square city blocks, and offers performances by nationally known bands such as Cake. I think Etta James performed a few years ago. But all of this is free, and you just sort of wander around and immerse yourself in the wackiness that can be Baltimore (wackiness is what I love about Baltimore). So I found this interesting:

Instead of actually walking around looking at the displays, listening to the music, and participating in the games, you can pay $25 to stand on the top of a parking garage and look at the tops of peoples’ heads. Um, no thanks? The crowds did get to us, though, so Mark and I sought refuge at our favorite bar, then skipped over to The Yabba Pot for dinner.

And finally, I just wanted to share this extremely cute picture of Smucky and Brachtune playing Uno:

I’ll have a real post for you this week, I promise!

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Celebration of Celebrations 2009

Mark and I have an annual summer party, called the Celebration of Celebrations, that usually coincides with a visit from Smucky. This year’s party was this weekend and like last year, I managed to not take any real pictures of any of the food I made. However, I did get several requests for recipes, so here’s a run-down of what I served, as well as some horrible photos. Most of the food had already been wolfed down before I was able to get a second to take pictures.

Here is some of the spread:

That’s homemade Italian bread, and with it a dip of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground pepper. I bought a ton of snacks: several different kinds chips (including Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos for the novelty of it because they are vegan and I haven’t had a Dorito in a million years), peanut-filled pretzels, and Virginia peanuts. It was junk food heaven. I made ranch dip, which is what I got the most requests for recipes for. Unfortunately for the world, I just throw things together when I make dips (well, when I make just about anything, really), but this is approximately what I did:

Vegan Ranch Dip
1 jar Vegenaise
1 cup vegan sour cream
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp dried minced onion, reconstituted briefly in hot water then drained
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together then refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend.

I balanced all the junk food out with some veggies and hummus. I was going for unusual colors of ordinary vegetables (purple peppers and yellow baby carrots!):

I made two different types of hummus: roasted red pepper and extra garlic.

Hummus, Two Ways

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 can chickpeas
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste for extra garlic flavor)
optional: 2 roasted red peppers (for roasted red pepper flavor)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a food processor, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t make my own salsa; it’s usually Mark’s job to make salsa but he didn’t grow any hot peppers this year so he’s not interested in making it. I did, however, make guacamole, which I served with chips and store-bought salsa.

Guacamole

1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe avocados
Tabasco, to taste
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tomato, chopped

If you have a molcajete, place the onion, garlic, and salt in it and mash with the pestle. Add the avocado and mash, then add the Tabasco and lime juice and continue to mash. Stir in the tomatoes, and serve in the molcajete. If you don’t have a molcajete, put all ingredients except tomatoes in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth-ish, then stir in the tomato.

The guac was such a hit that I had a request/demand to make a second batch around 1 a.m. – it it was all gone by the time I cleaned up around 4.

At Smucky’s request, the main course was a pasta bar of sorts. I cooked several different kinds of pasta, including a gluten-free penne, and made a couple different sauces.

Marinara Sauce

2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (or to taste)
2 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes (I like fire-roasted)
1 tsp dry oregano
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
salt to taste
juice of 1 lemon

In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring some olive oil to temperature over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and seasonings. Let simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour, add the lemon juice, then use an immersion blender or blend in batches in the blender until to desired chunkiness or smoothness.

Pesto

2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups (packed) basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese, or nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

The main attraction, however, seemed to be Hamburger Noodle Bake, of which I made a double batch and had only a small bit leftover – even after filling everyone up on junk food for a couple of hours before serving it. I was a little surprised how popular it was considering there were no other vegans or vegetarians (I don’t think, anyway) at this shindig. Even the ever-skeptical Smucky enjoyed it! I prepared it Friday night, put it in the fridge overnight, and baked it up Saturday afternoon, which made it perfect party food because I didn’t have to worry about it the day of, everyone loved it, and it tasted fine sitting out buffet style all night long. I can definitely recommend that recipe for appeasing omnivores!

I didn’t take any pictures of the pastas, but in this photo by Smucky – which also shows you the snacks in much better detail – you can see them at the far end of the table:

I also made mint chocolate chip ice cream, it being Smuck’s favorite flavor, but I forgot to tell everyone it was in the freezer! Fortinbras made short work of in the morning (and by morning, I mean “3 p.m.”, which is when I think he got up), however, when doing his usual rummaging and foraging, and Smucky’s had a bowl or two today…and I’m having one right now!

Smucks also got an unattractive shot of me looking a bit crazed while putting all the food out:

But hey, guess what? I finally got to spend most of the weekend in the pool, so maybe I’ll stop complaining about the lack of summer? I sure hope so and I’m sure you all do too!

And finally, here are me and Smucky celebrating!

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Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh

It’s been a rough day. I went to bed late last night suffering from a lot of back pain, inflicted upon myself either from rigorously brushing the pool (which doesn’t make sense because I’ve been brushing it non-stop all “summer” thanks to the rotten weather-induced algae) or from kayaking (which also doesn’t make sense because after 3 minutes of rowing on my part my back was already starting to hurt and Mark took over all rowing). I woke up several hours before my usual hour, startled by a very loud bang followed by the sound of broken glass. For a split second, I thought it was Tigger, because every other time I’ve ever woken up to the sound of broken glass, Tigger was to blame. Alas, no Tigger, though if he were still here, he could break a glass a day for all I care. With much sleepiness and trepidation I slunk into the kitchen. One of the bottles of root beer I’d bottled on Friday night had exploded. All over my kitchen. Root beer and broken glass EVERYWHERE. I sighed and grabbed the sponge, thinking that, well, at least I’d be early for work for once in my life since I certainly wasn’t going back to bed. I started scrubbing, trying to do so without moving my shoulders, which by the way, is not very easy.

Half an hour later, with root beer still all over the place, I wandered out into the dining room, where I discovered that a bottle of Mark’s ink had also exploded, all over the hardwood floors. Now, I understand why the root beer exploded (though I left plenty of room in the bottle for the carbonation), but I have NO idea why the ink exploded. It’s really very strange. So then I cleaned that up as well, which was not fun and involved, of all things, a dough scraper.

Two hours later, I had cleaned the entire kitchen and everything in it and got all the ink off the dining room floor. I was sticky and blackened and gratefully hopped in the shower, no longer early for work. After showering I was starving and went into the kitchen to grab breakfast. I removed the orange juice and shook it….and as the cap wasn’t on tightly, orange juice went everywhere! All over my newly cleaned kitchen, all over my newly cleaned self. Arrgh! What a morning!

I managed to make it through the day without anything else exploding, but my back was still sore when I got home and I was dismayed the find the kitchen floor still very sticky. Fortunately for me, Mark offered to scrub it again and he did a good job. While he was doing so, I went to my laptop in search of dinner ideas. You’ll forgive me if tonight I wanted something very quick and easy. I googled “cabbage jalapeno tempeh”: three ingredients I have and want to use up. I was a bit surprised to find something that contained all three ingredients, but I did: Mark Bittmans’ Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I actually own (but couldn’t immediately get to as Mark was still scrubbing). My friends, I was too exhausted to try to improve upon this dish, although I take most of the recipes in that book as nothing more than starting points.

Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh

8 oz tempeh, crumbled
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp ginger, minced or grated
1-2 jalapenos, minced
3 1/2 cups vegan broth or stock (any flavor)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar or 6 drops stevia
3 cups chopped cabbage
4 oz bean threads or thin pasta
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I used 2 cubes frozen cilantro from Trader Joes)
2 scallions, chopped

Prep all the ingredients. While I was mincing the jalapeno, it exploded and I got jalapeno juice in my eye. No lie. Today’s been an amazing day of explosions.

Bring some oil up to temperature in a Dutch oven or other pot, then add the crumbled tempeh and fry until golden.

Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno; saute for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar or stevia. Bring to a rapid boil.

Cook at a fairly decent boil for about ten minutes or until broth is somewhat reduced. Add cabbage and boil for another minute.

Add the bean threads, cilantro, and scallions …

… and stir until bean threads are soft.

Serve immediately.

This was okay; a filling meal in about 15 minutes, but I probably won’t be rushing to make it again, at least not without playing with the recipe a bit to make it my own. I usually only make my own tempeh on weekends I will be home on both Saturday and Sunday because I usually cook the soybeans around noon and I like to be sure I’ll be home 24 hours later to remove the tempeh from the incubator. It’s been several weeks since we’ve been home on both weekend days, including last weekend. So I picked up some store-bought tempeh. Since I started making my own, though, store-bought has seemed really bland and doesn’t even look right to me any more. So I suspect I’ve have liked this meal a lot better if I’d used my own tempeh.

In the meantime, I’ve had a long day, I’m sore, I’ve been reading 2666 for a week, which is a long time for me to be reading a book, even if it is 900 pages long, Smucky’s arriving on Wednesday and I’m having a party for him on Saturday, so what I want more than anything else this evening is to sit here, Brachtune purring on my lap, and read until I fall asleep. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I will not be making myself a pot of tea because I’m pretty sure the kettle would explode and scald me with 3rd degree burns. I don’t think, however, I will need any help falling asleep tonight.

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Roasted Romensco

We had fractals for dinner.

I was immediately attracted to this strange looking vegetable at the farmer’s market yesterday. It was labelled a romensco and further research informs me it is a type of cauliflower, better known in Italy than it is here. There are just about zilch recipes on the internet that I could find so I decided to simply roast it in olive oil and garlic, because, what’s not good roasted in olive oil and garlic?

Roasted Romensco

1 head romensco (or ordinary cauliflower if you can’t find romensco)
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
coarse or flaked sea salt (like Maldon), to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop romensco into fractal florets.

Place on a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, and toss with garlic, salt, and pepper. It’s easiest to use your hands, coating each piece with the oil. Arrange in a single layer for roasting.

Roast for 40 minute or until fork-tender.

I also made couscous. I brought 1 1/2 cups broth to a boil, added the leftover zucchini guts from last night’s stuffed zucchini, the remainder of a tomato Mark left sitting on the counter after making tomato surprise, and a can of chickpeas. I also added some shallot salt.

Then I covered the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes, then added 1 cup couscous, covered, and cooked for another 10 minutes, fluffing with a fork when it was done.

And here’s a lousy picture of the meal:

What do fractals taste like, you’re wondering? Similar to cauliflower, but sort of earthier and fractal-ier. Pretty darn good, actually. Mark’s thoughts on the matter ranged from “it’s like eating art” to “it’s a little creepy” to “are you sure this is good for you?”, until he tried a piece and exclaimed, “hey, this is actually really good!”. He had a second helping of both the romensco and the couscous and then complained he ate too much.

I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of grown people – especially men – do not like most vegetables. I watched about 70% of the people on my team at work diligently pick all the vegetables out of their catered Chinese food a few weeks ago and was astonished. My husband is always stealing broccoli off my plate and here these people were – in many cases – not just eating around it but removing it so it didn’t even touch and apparently defile their meat. I find this behavior completely bizarre, however, it’s caused me to consider myself even luckier I have a husband who not only went vegan (I never asked him to, by the way), but who happily eats just about any vegetable I feed him. And he’s starting to eat even more of them! We’re working on leafy greens right now, so expect husband-friendly greens recipes. As for those people who don’t eat any vegetables, I feel like asking them, “but what do you eat?!” I have a feeling their response would be a heck of a lot shorter than my response when asked the same dreaded question.

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Stuffed Zucchini

I actually got up early specifically to go to the farmer’s market on my way to work. I am proud of myself! There I found some interesting items, including round zucchini. Actually, I found round zucchini at Whole Foods earlier this week and purchased one, but I bought a matching one at the market this morning. Not knowing what else to do with them, I stuffed them. Mark – who is zucchini-skeptical and although recently he began voluntarily eating lightly sauteed and salted zucchini, has apparently been diligently eating around the squash I’ve been sneaking into his meals all week – said it was really good, however, I was underwhelmed myself. For some reason, every time I stuff a vegetable, like peppers, it always ends up tasting sort of raw to me, like it’s missing something. Maybe I should saute everything before baking it. Anyway, I’ll post the recipe anyway because the presentation was nice and I’ll probably try to improve upon it later and will appreciate knowing what I did this time.

Stuffed Zucchini
serves 2

2 round zucchinis
1 cup cooked brown rice (I freeze leftover rice in 1- or 2-cup servings, which is what I used tonight)
4 oz tempeh, crumbled
1 mildly hot chili, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped, with juices
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp oregeno
1 tsp dried or 1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia (I didn’t use this tonight but I would add it next time)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice the tops off the zucchinis.

Use a paring knife to remove a cone shape from the interior of each one.

Scoop out the interior of each zucchini as you would a pumpkin for carving a jack o’lantern. I used a grapefruit spoon, which made easy work of it. Reserve the “guts”.

Chop the zucchini interiors and add half of them to a medium mixing bowl (reserve the remainder for another use), then stir in all remaining ingredients.

Stuff each zucchini with as much of the mixture as you can (you’ll have some left over, which you can save for another use). I topped it with a bit of Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese.

Top each with its hat (as Mark termed it).

Bake for 45 minutes or until zucchini is fork-tender.

I also made a baked barley dish, combining 1 cup barley, 2 cups broth, 1 small chopped squash, and 1 small bunch tender rainbow chard into a 1 quart casserole:

I baked it for an hour (I stuck the zucchini into the oven 15 minutes after the barley started).

Serve!

Another neat thing I got at the farmer’s market, that appealed to my scientitfic side, was a fractal food!

It’s a romensco and it’s a type of cauliflower and I’m very excited to find something to do with it. Stay tuned!

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