30 October 2007

NYC, here we came.

We finally made it into the City on Saturday at 4:20 PM. The flight was delayed, and I was, understandably, swearing proficiently and colourfully under and over my breath. But, we made it in, and I took some pictures of our new home.

The picture below is how you see our bedroom as soon as you enter it. The fireplace doesn't connect to anything.

This is our palatial kitchen. It's freaking HUGE. It's also really pretty. It's granite floors, and marble counters. That's a hardwood table, and the appliances and utensils are all top of the line. I love my land lady.

To christen our kitchen with my mark, I created a few new dishes, and cooked. This one here is whole potatoes, tossed with some oil, and then combined with diced tomatoes, and sliced onions. I baked it at 350º until the potatoes were tender. They got crispy on the outside, and nobody needed margarine, because the oil and tomatoes and onions provided lots of flavour.

This is a dish of plantains, with the typical spices that I used to make Indian roasted potatoes, but I added crushed peanuts at the last five minutes of cooking. Very yummy, and the skins got all crispy, so the two textures of the plantains were cleanly balanced.

While I was waiting for the plantains and potatoes to cook in the oven, I dashed off and snagged a picture of Steve on the bed, checking his email and my blog.

On the way out, I snagged a quick picture of all of our luggage. To imagine that we managed to make the move with only five pieces of luggage in total is pretty darned good, I think. No need to tell you that the red suitcases are mine, as well my red purse. I hope you're all taking notes, so that you know what colour of stuff to get me!

I found some tinned beans, so I made a really quick bean soup with adobo seasoning.

I used the same adobo seasoning to give the rice a yellow tint, but then I thought it looked too boring. I quickly deep fried some onions to get them dark brown. It was still lacking. So, I sliced up a couple of carrots in thin slices, and deep fried them as well. I think it came out rather pretty. The sweetness of the carrots and onions offset the dark, earthy adobo seasonings in the rice. Quite yummy.

My landlady seems to enjoy my cooking quite a lot, and has been eating vegan since I arrived. It is her house, so I'm not going to make a fuss if she has animal products, but I think it's very sweet of her to be so accommodating. Dinner that first night gave us leftovers for a while. I froze half of the soup. In fact, I froze a lot of the leftovers, so that we don't get bored.

Now I need to figure out what to make for tomorrow!

25 October 2007

Italian Stir-fry?

There. I'm doing it. I'm scraping down at the bottom of the barrel at this point, because I sincerely doubt that I'll get satisfaction from a restaurant, but I dislike going to the market, when I'm about to leave in two days! So, here comes what is left in my fridge. There was some broccoli in the freezer, along with some cut green beans. There were mushrooms floating about, so those got chopped as well. I had a tin of olives (sorry--I just love olives). Of course, I also used my old standard of garlic, onions, sesame seeds, and cumin as the base seasoning, and I added oregano, basil, and thyme to the dish for heightened flavour. I did it up like a stir-fry, keeping things moving constantly, and cooking it all over a very hot flame. It came out wonderfully with some pasta. I'm pleased.

For the birds

I was watching the birds early in the morning, and they were hanging out on this telephone wire. You'd see the large crow tend to stick toward the edges of the wire, while the small, noisy green parrots would congregate in the middles. It was a lot of fun to watch the parrots home in on a seemingly impossibly small spot, and come in for the landing. It was almost as if they've got visual spatial skills of an architect, the flying skills of an experienced pilot, and the ability to be boisterous and cheerful like a young child. Happy flying, my feathered brethren.

24 October 2007

Massive Food Update

Two weeks ago, I went to the beautiful home of my friend Erica to cook with her and her daughter. Ever since Karen (her daughter) found out that her mom works with a guy that does Indian cooking, she's been bugging her mom to call me over to have us all cook together. Finally, now that I'm leaving town, Erica decided to get this thing off of the ground. She called me and Steve to come over that Saturday, and see what we could see.

We arrived bright and early at 11:30 AM, and went shopping at this fruit and vegetable store near her house. They had such an enormous variety that I was squealing in excited glee, and grabbing everything I could find. The entire trolley was overflowing with a cornucopia of colours. Erica could barely name half the stuff I was flinging into the trolley, but was happy that I was at least having a good time. $50 later, the car was loaded up, and we were ready to roll. We made a quick run to my parents' house to grab some curry leaves (again, which Erica had never heard of before!) and get things started.

Karen is an eager and talented cook. She knows her way around the kitchen, and is comfortable with pretty much anything you ask her to try. We chopped, peeled, and cooked. And cooked. And cooked some more. We started around noon, and rounded off the last dish around 4:00 PM. At the final count, we came up with 14 dishes. All of them were amazing. I decided to take some photographs of the event, but lost the camera that night. Steve found the camera, so I'm sharing now.

On the far left is lentil soup. It's a standard for me, and a crowd pleaser every time. In the centre is kale soup, with carrots. On the far right is kale and swiss chard soup. Yes, we had three soups to start.

On the left are plantains, done up like the Indian Roasted Potatoes from the cookbook. Since they were cooked in the oven, they all came out done all the way through. In the centre are roasted potatoes with whole cippoline onions. It was done in a cumin, sea salt, and turmeric base, in the oven. They came out tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside. The onions were sweet, and a little smoky from the cumin. Fabulous! On the right you see Karen, me, Erica, and Janice.

When Erica got back form Israel, she mentioned in passing that with every meal, they serve a chopped salad of cucumber, red onions, and tomatoes, tossed with parsley and lemon. Just by luck, the vegetable place had Israeli cucumbers, and good sweet plum tomatoes, so I couldn't resist! The only change I made was that I used shallots instead of onions, and cilantro instead of parsley. On the right is the Unslaw from the cookbook, with the addition of red peppers, and broccoli. I also added some hot Hungarian paprika to finish it off.

On the left is the unslaw, but without the broccoli or Hungarian paprika. I left out the broccoli, so that everyone could clearly see which one is hot, and which one isn't. In the middle are me and Steve. On the right is a blend of toasted ground cocoanut, with mixed nuts (also ground) that I seasoned with cinnamon, clove, fennel, and a bit of salt. We used it to sprinkle onto the soups, or salad, or rice, or whatever else we felt like eating it on!

On the left are red wine and brandy marinated beets (you can't see the nest of sautéed beet greens underneath, but they're there). On the right are the Indian aubergines from the cookbook.

No party is complete without silly poses after the cooking. I submit to you mine for that night.

This is what the spread looked like before everything came out. There's still a few dishes missing.

That's me and Erica in the kitchen, ready to break open the cocoanut with a hammer.

I'm sorry that it took so long to post the updates (which is why it's coming all at once!), but better late than never, eh?

23 October 2007

Mornings. ::shudder::

I'm not a morning person by definition, but it looks like I may be by design. For whatever reason, I sat up at 3:45 AM today, and didn't feel like going back to sleep. After my usual glass of water, I took one look at the fridge, the living room, and the kitchen, and quietly screamed inside. This will simply not do. The fridge was outright empty, the living room had what seemed to be a quarter tonne of junk mail, old magazines, and random other flotsam washing up from the shores of the couches and tables and every other space open surface there was. I couldn't see much of a floor. And we're flying out on Saturday.

First thing's first, which was to work on the fridge. As I've probably mentioned a few million times by now, I like to make large quantities of soups, stews, and stocks, and leave myself my own version of a frozen food aisle in my freezer. They come in handy for rainy days, or for whenever you haven't gone shopping in a while, and need to crank out a meal in a hurry. I set the microwave to stun, and let a large bowl of mung bean soup defrost (and recook, of course). I also pitched in the flour, water, yeast, and salt into my breadmaker, so that I'd have a fresh steamy loaf when I get home this afternoon. I also managed to ferret out a dish of pasta that I'd left in the freezer for emergency rations. Having 2 pita breads, and a small pot of hummus in the fridge (along with bottles of water, because it's ungodly hot out here) and nothing more to eat is what I'd call a code red emergency. Also, we're not going to be here all that long, so there you go.

Hold on. I should qualify what I mean by nothing to eat. Since the world revolves around me (Galileo got it wrong), I mean specifically that there was nothing for me to eat. There is still a whole mess of aubergine and a bunch of red wine marinated baked beets. Technically there's plenty of food for people to eat, but none for me. Oh yeah, and the Venn Pongal, of course. Granted, I don't count it, because I've already had it twice since I made it.

Damn. I am spoiled.

19 October 2007

Old standbys are there, as always.

Of course, since the move is coming up so soon, Steve and I are streamlining our lives, as well as our pantries and fridges and the like. Unfortunately, that means that we've more or less eaten everything else. It's vaguely embarrassing when the child of a mother whose cupboards are overflowing with food, who had to buy a second fridge to keep up with the amount of food, and whose family entertained almost every night is down to the components of food-like things.

There's split peas. There's oil, but I'd rather not bother with it, because I used it for frying a few too many times, and I think it answered back last night. Either that, or I was a lot more tired than I thought I was. Of course, there's rice. Spices are there, because my mother seriously has extreme stores of spices. No, I'm serious; she bought out stores with spices, and kept them in long term storage at home. Extreme, see?

It's not exactly torture, of course, when the pieces fall into place, and I make that old favourite, Venn Pongal. This time, I decided to be even more lazy than I normally am with this dish. I threw two cups of rice, and five cups of water into a large microwave safe dish. I microwaved it at 70% power for 15 minutes, then again at full power for 20 minutes. While that was going, I set a pot of water to boil (roughly 2 litres) and added 2 cups of yellow split peas to it.

As I said, that oil was giving me dirty looks, so I figured it'd be best to avoid that line of questioning, and tipped in a few stout teaspoons of my mother's Sambhar powder. (Google is your friend. I have a recipe in my book, but if you don't have my book, google "Sambhar powder recipe" and click around till you find one with the ingredients you have.) I also tipped in a scant teaspoon of turmeric, and a few scrapings of ginger root (fresh; powdered doesn't taste close to the same, so omit it if you don't have fresh). Of course, in went the ever present red chili flakes, and quite a lot of freshly ground black pepper. I could have added curry leaves, but I didn't feel like walking out into that rain.

I picked up my book, reclined on the couch to listen for the beep, and read avidly when the first 15 minutes were over. The water on the stove was cheerfully boiling, but the rice wasn't nearly cooked at all. In fact, at 70%, the water wasn't even boiling. I got annoyed, set the time for 20 minutes, and hit the start button. I added in the cooked rice. I replaced a bit of the water in the pot (as it was evaporating fairly fast), and put the lid on it. I dropped down the flame to medium low. Covering the lid and lowering the heat would maintain the temperature without my having to expend so much fuel. Besides, with Venn Pongal, you need the rice to be mushy in any case.

At the end of the 20 minute beep, the rice was done, and the split peas were almost done. I decided to have some toast, wash my face, do some tidying up, and get ready for dinner. The rice continued to merrily simmer away. About ten minutes later, the yellow split peas were done through (they sort of fell apart), and the rice was that proper mushy consistency. I generously salted the dish, and turned off the stove. It was still in that sloshy stage. I gave it a good strong stirring, to loosen up any bits that were stuck to the bottom of the pot, and covered the lid tightly. I relaxed with a glass of water, and knew that Steve would be coming home shortly. Just about ten minutes later, when the pongal had just set, he walked in, sniffed the air, and dug right in!

I'm surprised that it came out so well without any of the fat. Interesting ...

If, however, you don't particularly mind a bit of fat, here are some nifty and easy
Ideas for Jazzing Up Pongal
  • Raw or caramelised onions, sprinkled on top of each diner's bowl
  • Crushed toasted nuts
  • A drizzle of tahini, thrown on just before serving
  • Indian pickles (it's in the book, I swear)
Other than that, you really don't want to fuss around with the flavours or textures too much. Feel free to add more heat, or salt, or a kick more of spices. However, pongal is such a classic that it's hard to improve on something that's such a staple for so many people across the world.

That's right, world, not just India. I've noticed that all over the world, in the older civilisations, you had some mix of rice and lentils/beans/legums/pulses, that was cooked together, gently spiced, and eaten as a staple dish. The reason is that when you're feeding a family with such varied needs and tastes, as you did in those days when you lived with your family, you'd want to get something on the table that everyone could enjoy comfortably, from the very young to the adult to the very old. Regardless of what the culture would call it, it'd be fairly mushy, gently spiced, and cooked for a fairly long time (since the grain and the legume was cooking together). Cultures who don't quite have that art down (the younger, meat based ones) tried to emulate it, but would fall short of the whole point of the dish: it was meant to be a staple, it was meant to be cheap, and it was meant to be something that the whole family could easily enjoy.

Look at the traditional comfort foods of the American south. Macaroni and cheese. Smashed potatoes. You could certainly feed it to everyone, but it's not something you could eat every day as a staple. They're just searching for their lost bowls of pongal. It's OK, folks. There's a large pot of it waiting patiently on my stove. Come. Eat. :)

17 October 2007

Public Service Announcement

My mom called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me that dad's wallet was lost. It was late on a Saturday, and Steve and I were out. Shipping would be, to say the least, a little pricey. Cue the mad dash of madness.

Since the US Postal offices were already well past closed at that point, the only other option would be to ship it with a different carrier, like DHL or FedEx. Meanwhile, none of them had a clue as to how expensive this can be. Take it from someone who's made some pretty big messes in his life that it's not cheap. DHL's 10 AM service alone is like $80 on a weekday. This was a Saturday night, and they'd need it before their 9:00 AM flight on Tuesday. There are just some chances you don't take.

They filed the police report, but would be unable to pick it up until Monday, when the station had regular business hours. Meanwhile, a call to the airlines revealed that there was a fair bit of other ... stuff to be done before he could get on the plane, so could they please show up a couple of hours ahead of time? As it is, you already need to be at the airport two or three hours early, to get through security and the rest. Whoof. This was going to be a challenge.

By hook or crook, I managed to contact a family friend, dash over to his place, and scan my dad's passport. I got it on my flash drive, took it home, and sent it in an email. My parents went ahead and took a colour print of the copies, and were ready to bring it on Tuesday before their flight.

The wallet turned up on Monday.

A jogger had seen it on the road, and took it to the station. Fortunately, all the money was still in there, and the guy was honest enough to leave it all in there. None of the cards were fussed with, and everything was in order. My parents managed to pick it up from the station on Monday afternoon. Bear in mind that from Saturday though Monday afternoon both my parents were on edge, because this was NOT a pleasant prospect (i.e., getting new bank, credit, and social security card) to face. Then calling the credit bureaus, and putting up a fraud alert. Then hoping against hope that someone doesn't steal his identity. It would have been an epic disaster.

My mom and I talked this morning, and she said that now that they have the copy of his passport, that they'd be making copies of the rest of that stuff. A thought struck me at that moment. What if that'd been me? I'm leaving to New York in a week, and don't know what I'd do if I lost my ID and credit cards. I don't even have the phone numbers for all those cards to call them. That in itself would take a while to sort out. Then I'd have to figure out how to handle the rest of it. Meanwhile, I'm a USA citizen. To have my stuff stolen would be a major head ache, because my information would go for a fair bit of money.

I told my mom that I had to go, and explained that I'd be going to make the copies NOW. I went in, scanned the front and back of my credit cards, then took a scan of my passport. I emailed it to myself, and have it for safe keeping. Please please do this as well. Have it there for yourself should anything ever happen to your cards. It's just nice to know that you have options.

16 October 2007

Veganism != expensive

I've heard it once, and I'll probably hear it a few thousand more times, but let me be abundantly clear right now: veganism is not expensive. I got the comment just yesterday, and it annoyed me, but I chose not to say anything, because I was in a hurry, and a dirty look was all I had time for. If you're reading this, person to whom I shot a dirty look, this is to you. I'll try to make this as friendly as I can, and if you notice me getting ranty, forgive me, because this is about the millionth time I've addressed this.

Everyone needs a variety of foods in their diet, which include selections of dark leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, and lots of water. Not juice, coffee, tea, or soymilk, but water. All these things are dirt cheap no matter where you're going, especially if you're buying them in bulk, cooking them up in large batches, and freezing the leftovers. Ideally, we'd all be eating locally grown, organic, fresh picked produce, but for those of you who cannot afford that, buying the regular fruits and veg are just fine.

That being said, if it's a time issue, even living off of frozen vegetables (though not the best idea in the world) and tinned beans would still leave you at less than $5 a day for food. 1 lb of frozen veg generally goes for a dollar or two. 1 lb of tinned beans are generally around a dollar. A 20 lb bag of rice shouldn't be more than $7, unless you're buying something fancy. Even at $10 for a 20 lb bag of rice, you're still going to take some serious time to finish it off. Throw in the cost of spices, and you're still eating really cheaply, because you're not using them in large amounts.

So what if you can't afford cookbooks? There are sites like vegweb that have hundreds of recipes for each category in their site. They let you post your pictures and reviews of the recipes, so that others can see how it turned out. You can read other peoples' reviews, and get an idea of how it's going to turn out. This is not difficult at all. They've even got recipes posted for all levels of skill.

Maybe that's still not enough for you. Join any vegan forum on the Internet, and there's bound to be a food section, because vegans really like to eat, and love to talk about it. If you're on a tight budget, chances are that someone else is too, and can probably guide you along the path without too much pain. As long as you're not behaving like a jerk, people are willing to lend a hand.

I've met multiple people who've gone vegan at age 12 or 13, with or without the support of their parents, and still managed to make it work. Here you are, a full grown adult, whining about how it's too expensive? That's pretty sad there, buddy. If those young kids, with no car, no job, no money, and no support can manage to make it work for themselves, you as an adult who is infinitely more equipped to navigate life are not only capable of making it work, you're able to make it work very well.

Finally, if you really think it's all that expensive, let me cook for you for a week. I'll go shopping with you, and show you exactly what I'm buying. I'll keep the costs at around $20 for two weeks, and make sure to hit up the produce aisle regularly. This isn't $20 per week for two weeks. It's $20 for two weeks, full stop. Then I'll come over to your house, cook the whole lot of it, and chuck it in your freezer for you to have.

The reason you're saying that going vegan is expensive is because you're waffling around the national Health Food Store chains, and trying to find vegan versions of every single thing you've ever eaten, full stop. If your idea of going vegan is buying soy cheese, soy parm, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, seitan, mock chicken, fish, beef, hotdogs, burgers, and ice cream, you're not only going to get tremendously unhealthy, you're also going to be spending ten times more than any sane person needs to be spending on food. Remember kids: a cookie is a SOMETIMES food. I almost wish for a vegan version of that song, where they say "an omnisub is a sometimes food" but I'm not sure how much Sesame Street would care for that.

15 October 2007

Saturday Cooking

On Saturday, a friend of mine (Erica) called me over to her house to get together to cook. This is probably going to be the only chance I'll get to go over there before I move next Saturday, so I figured it'd be a great opportunity to show her and her daughter how to get down the basics of cooking for vegans. Their food is mostly centred around a meat main dish, and a couple of sides, so I don't know what they expected when Steve and I came over!

We got in, and I immediately set a pot of lentils to start simmering, so that by the time we got back from the store, they'd be at least mostly done. We went to this place called the Fruit Emporium, where they had so many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, that I was running around like a kid opening presents on the day of his birthday. Kale, collard and beet greens, swiss chard, bok choy, cabbages as big as your head, cocoanut, yams, tiny little baby potatoes, yucca, cassava, pumpkin, butternut squash, eggplant (both Japanese and Italian), and so many others that I can't even remember them all. We piled the trolley full of vegetables, and went to pay.

Everything totalled up to $50.

She was quite shocked at that, because she's used to paying so much more for her weekly grocery bill. We lugged everything to her house, and started cooking. I showed her daughter how to do everything, from start a fresh soup to roasting vegetables in the oven with a spice rub. I kept the steps really simple, so that she could come back and try things out on her own.

All in all, we turned out 14 dishes. 3 of them were soups, there were four varieties of oven roasted vegetables, and the rest were random sides we composed on the stove top. Our friends who came over to help us eat all that food were raving about how it was so much fun to try out the different things we came up with, and enjoy everything so much! The star of the programme, however, was the lentil soup. For some reason, no matter how many times I make them, they always get big raves from the people who eat it.

Unfortunately, we lost our camera, so I can't upload pictures of all the food. :( I'm sure it'll turn up at some point when we get everything set up at home to move.

12 October 2007


I was up late last night, because I had a lot on my mind, and wanted to chat with a friend to clear said mind. Granted, I'd lost my mind years ago, but I can pretend, right? So there you go.

I think I got back in around 12:45 or something, and Steve, bless him, muttered something cute, and rolled over when I came to bed. The next morning, bright and early at 6:00, Steve cheerfully woke me up. I was still half asleep, when I figured out the best way to get him out of my hair so I could sleep in. "Steve could you please pop some cumin and mustard and sesame seeds, throw in some cooked beans, and throw in some garlic? Make sure to keep an eye on it though."

"Sure, no problem."

30 minutes later, he comes back. "Beans are done."


"We're almost out of rice."

"I meant uncooked. Throw in 1 cup of rice, 2 cups water, let it come to a boil, drop to a simmer for fifteen minutes."

Another fifteen minutes later, "Babe, the rice is done, and it's time to go."

I groaned, and silently cursed the need to go to the store, but I was fine once I got out of the house, because I had a yummy lunch to look forward to!

EDIT: Gallopinto is a delightful South American dish, where beans and rice are cooked together, and served as a main course. It's spicy, smoky, and yummy.

Damn home improvement shows.

When they told me that a Stud Finder had nothing to do with what I thought it was, I cried for days.


10 October 2007

Moving ramble: not for the easily bored.

If you're bored by my ramblings about moving, just keep going. Maybe read the veganfaq.blogspot.com for something more interesting and definitely more enlightening than my whinging. Either way, it's here so that I have some record of moving, and so that Steve can grant me a firm kick in the bottom if I ever suggest moving again. Onwards then!

So here we are, with a mountain of crap that we've managed to accumulate over the past year and change. Tonnes of clothes, lots of baubles, random books, books that aren't so random, accessories, and more stuff that I'm ashamed to admit. My mother rustled up some Club cookware, which I feel hideous leaving behind, as I've wanted to cook with it since forever, but was saving it for when I move. My set of Henckel knives that I got as a gift from Steve's brother (and sister—both bought us a set) that have served me so well. It's just about that time to get them sharpened anyway, but the lovely lady who's renting us the place has generously offered the use of her kitchen.

There's also a small mountain of miscellaneous crap that's sitting around and gathering dust. I can't take all those books with me, because I literally don't have the space in my suitcases. But what about that tome that I have for using Creative Suite 2? I read that damn thing constantly. I also have autographed copies of some books that I can't let go, because they came from friends.

Aside from all of that, however, I'm LAZY! I don't feel like going through that huge pile of stuff, and sorting it out and getting it into boxes. Boo. I can't exactly ask Steve to tackle it, because he doesn't get home until past 7:00 anyway. I know that when this is all over, I'll look back and laugh, but for now, it just feels good to whine. >_<

08 October 2007


Of course I made soup. I had a bunch of disparate ingredients, and a hankering for something to battle that horrible rainy weather we've been having for the past few weeks. Contents of this soup include red potatoes, broccoli, and cabbage. Of course, it's got a metric tonne of curry leaves, some spices, and a touch of chili.

Then yesterday, I had some beans laying about. I was feeling lazy, so I tipped in a few cups of beans to the soup as well. Those lovely little gems launched my soup from wonderful to catastrophically delicious. I can't wait to have another go at it this afternoon.

07 October 2007

I'll be moving from Florida to New York city really soon. If anyone would mind having a couple of cute vegan boys who will cook and clean for you for a few days in exchange for couch space, let me know.

Speaking of cooking, my friend Dana (I mentioned her a lot in the book) invited me over to come cook with her. She wanted to get in a couple more sessions before I leave the state, and I was more than happy to oblige her, because I enjoy being with her so much! And, you, my lovely readers, can enjoy the pictures of the food.

This is bajji. The larger pieces are actually bread that we used to use up the last of the batter. It was delicious. I was bursting with pride, because Dana managed this batch herself with no prompting from me at all. In the time I've known her, we've only made it a couple of times, because it isn't exactly healthy, and it uses up a fair bit of oil, and makes an enormous mess. So to have seen her triumphing over the recipe (from MEMORY, no less!) was a wonderful parting gift.

This is one of Steve and Dana's favourites: aubergine. I made version 2 from the book, with lots of whole cloves of garlic. It was another moment of pride, because as I was cooking in, Dana's daughter Noodle walked by, and asked "Did you just add cinnamon to something?" We were both shocked that this little five year old was able to correctly identify a spice by smell alone. We're making a future chef!

Wine, of course. The glasses looked really pretty, so I wanted a picture of them.

Courgettes and Squash. VERY yummy, with lots of basil, oregano, rosemary, and curry leaves. Piles and piles of curry leaves.

Saffron and cashew rice Basmati rice. Extremely yummy all by itself.

This stuff makes me ill to think about, but Steve and Dana POUNCE at it every time I make it. It's that okra buried treasure from the book. It's another of Dana's favourites, so she specifically got okra so that I'd make it for her. The things you do for friends!

Indian roasted potatoes with onions.

We had a really good time, cooking, talking, gossiping; all the regular stuff that we do when you get that many vegans in a room together. The food came out very well, and the house smelled divine for hours afterwards!

03 October 2007

Mushrooms, Cabbage, Potatoes

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it yet, but Steve makes a very bad liar. He's also fairly bad at dropping subtle hints. But that's OK, because I can tell what he's getting at for the most part. A prime example of this was yesterday night after work. I'd asked him to snag some vegetables on his way back home. We had frozen spinach and dried beans, but we'd already had bean soups three times this week alone. I was wanting some actual vegetables. He said that he'd definitely hit up our usual haunts, and see what he could rustle up. "Oh, I made sure to eat already, so there's no pressure to cook, but I did clear out the dishes in the sink, and the counter, so it's there if you want." See what I mean? About as subtle as a flaming pink and neon green rhino at a tea party. In a sun dress and white gloves, no less.

We got home, and he showed me that he'd bought cabbage. And potatoes.


This would usually mean, on my side, a stew or soup of some sort. I'd whip out the holy trinity of ingredients (onions, garlic, tomato), and the holy trinity of spices (cumin seed, mustard seed, sesame seed), and make soup happen, with the addition of some lentils, or other beans. It would have been comforting and delicious. But last night, I was feeling contrary. I didn't want to follow predictable patterns. He knows what happens when he presents me with really scant variety of ingredients: I panic and make soup. It's what happened every single time in the past when the pantry has been bare.
Fortunately, this old dog has a few new tricks up his sleeves. I puttered around for a while, chopping up the cabbage, dicing up the potatoes, dicing up some onions, and musing on what to make. For good measure, I roughly chopped up a few handfuls of curry leaves, and had my spices waiting for me, depending on where to go. When I saw how much more cabbage there was to chop, I groaned inwardly, and decided on my old standby of soup.
Let me explain. The cabbage that Steve brought home was a couple of kilos at the very least. Something of that size takes some serious effort to break down. I managed to hack it apart enough that I could finish chopping half the head, but beyond that, I was far and away screwed if I were to chop through the entire monster. Considering that I'd just chopped up an onion and some potatoes, I was ready to call it quits at this point in the chopping department.
Good Dino: Wait a minute, Dino. Isn't the holy trinity of soup supposed to be onions, garlic, and tomato? You've only got one of the three handled now, and you know how we feel about starting something without having all the ingredients ready in front of us. Evil (AKA normal) Dino: Quiet, you. We'll figure this out.
In went some oil into a deep sided pot. When the oil got hot, in went some spices (the same spices I used in that lentil soup a few posts back). I pitched in the curry leaves and the onions, and a liberal dose of salt. While the onions sautéed, I fumbled around in the fridge, seeing what else I could rustle up. Aha! Sliced mushrooms! Suddenly, I knew that I could do this as a dry curry on top of the stove, rather than a soup.
When the potatoes were crusty and brown all the way around, I lobbed in the sliced mushrooms. See, my problem is that if I was going to add in cabbage, which takes a while to leak out its water and let you unstick the potatoes from the bottom of the pot, I would have to add some water first to deglaze the pot first. What the mushrooms would do for me is quickly leak out their water naturally, which would deglaze the pot. In the mean time, the water would also evaporate fairly quickly, so that I wouldn't end up with a wet dish, meaning that I could make a dry curry after all!
Once the mushrooms cooked down a bit, I threw in the mass of cabbage that I did have cut already (the other half comfortably sitting in the fridge), and added a bit more salt. I let the cabbage cook for about five or ten minutes or so, and stirred it around every two or three minutes to redistribute all the spices and salt and flavours. Once the cabbage was done to a T, I turned off the heat, and had the divine stuff with some steaming hot rice. It tasted wonderful, and was easy to make.

01 October 2007

It all started with a slice of bread that I toasted on the stove with olive oil. I just needed the barest few drops to get the bread lightly oiled on both sides, and then a nice hot skillet to get that pretty colour on it.

Next came a clove of garlic, that I had sliced in half vertically. I rubbed the garlic all over the bread, on both sides and on the crust.

I wanted that garlic to permeate the bread thoroughly. It was quite nice.

Finally, I loaded on giant slices of fresh tomatoes, dripping with flavour.

Breakfast is served.