28 November 2007

The Onion

The humble onion is often overlooked in terms of importance, but any cook will tell you that its use is varied and interesting in terms of the places it can sneak in and fill a niche. Whether raw, cooked, steamed, boiled, dried and powdered, or fresh and crisp, the onion is a flavour powerhouse. It gives many dishes a mild sweetness to cut through the salty and sour flavours of other ingredients. It caramelises in fat, to give the final dish a deep, dark brown, earthy colour. It's like your Jack of All Trades of the culinary world. I had a dear friend who was wondering about the different kinds of onions, and this entry goes out to her (she knows who she is) for inspiring an entry so early in the morning!

In terms of heat, Spanish (aka yellow) onions have the most kick, in my opinion. They're really good with an even amount of sugars that'll caramelise rather well. They also work extremely well in a sweat, and in raw or other forms. They're your all purpose onion.

White onions are sweeter than Spanish onions. They also have a bit more sugar in them, and tend to burn more easily in a sautee. You don't really want them to caramelise overmuch, but rather, you want to sweat them (turn on the heat, hear the onions sizzle, turn down the heat to as low as it'll go, and let them cook, covered, for like twenty minutes or so, till they're clear). They have subtle undertones that come out very well in a sweat. White onions are also used in Indian medicine (ayurveda), for reduction of phlegm, and to relieve gas, and to increase vitality. They're eaten raw, or cooked.

Red onions are sweeter, but have a sharper, more biting flavour when eaten raw. Try not to cook with red onions, because you'll be missing out on its most powerful weapon: its beautiful colour! Serve reds raw, over soups, salads, etc., with a splash of lemon and a touch of salt.

Vidalia onions are mild, fairly sweet, and ever so hard to find, unless they're in season. They're only grown in a town called Vidalia, in Georgia. Hawaiian sweet onions are sweeter still, but have that same mild, clean flavour working with them. Because they're so expensive, you want to make these onions in ways that will showcase them, and where they're the focus of a dish. Try them in onion rings, or even raw in a salsa or salad. They're quite tasty.

Scallions, or green onions, or long onions, or spring onions (all the same onion!) are the ones with the white part and the green part. The green part has an earthy, "green" flavour, while the white part has more of an oniony bite to it. You want to use as much as you can, to get the combination of flavours that will come out onto the food.

Shallots are much much smaller than regular onions, and looks almost like large cloves of garlic, with a pale reddish/purplish flesh. Use shallots in applications where you will be simmering, rather than sauteeing, so that you don't burn them. You only need a small amount to flavour a lot of food. Shallots are the onions found in a buerre blanc.

Leeks are extremely mild, and are excellent when sweated, to flavour complex, and delicately flavoured soups. The most famous use of leeks is in a vichyssoise, which is a leek and potato soup that's served chilled and pureed. Its flavour is light and airy, and a regular onion would overpower the soup. Also, because the leeks don't have too much sugar, they don't caramelise easily, which keeps the soup very white.

Chives are an herb that's related to onions and garlic (and leeks, oh my!), and that have a flavour that's kind of like a cross between garlic and onion. Use chives raw, as a last minute garnish, for a little bit of an extra kick in the food. It's excellent!

I hope that's inspired you to get out there and experiment with your onions!

26 November 2007

NJ Veg Social Post Thanksgiving Recap

We had the party at Jeff's house for the New Jersey Veg Social group. There was so much food that they thought that I wouldn't be able to cook it all. But, I decided to get out there, and cook something like twenty or thirty different dishes with the vegetables that everyone brought. That being said, it wouldn't have been possible without all the people helping with the prep of the vegetables, and chatting with me. Because I was having such a good time, my creativity flowed more strongly, and I began to create entirely new taste sensations, and to flow with whatever was being prepared at the moment.

It wasn't just a party, it was an event. It was a phenomenon. It was everything that a meetup should and can be. Why? Because people came together, vegan or otherwise, and enjoyed the company of friends, and broke bread together over five or six hours. The food just kept coming and coming. Every hour or so, a new dish would come out onto the tables, and the people would cluster around, and sample the new thing. They'd comment on the flavours and textures. They'd talk about how they never thought of preparing the vegetable in question in that manner before. They'd eat, and eat some more. It was so much fun!

The next time this happens, I'll be sure to let you all know. It's something that more of us need to share if we can.


21 November 2007

Creation is a wonderful thing.

Yesterday, I lazed around the house, and decided to make a quick meal that I could fall back on if I got hungry during the day. See, rather than having three distinct meals per day, I tend to graze on whatever is lying around. This includes everything from fruit to nuts to anything cooked. So on days off, I tend to make a big pot of something, and nibble on it all day.

Yesterday's dish started off as a potato curry. I did the cumin, turmeric, and hot paprika thing initially, thinking that it'd be enough for me. Of course, I had a pot of rice going on the back burner. Once the potatoes and rice were cooked, I eyed a bunch of spinach that looked ready to go bad really soon. And, I figured that if I was going to be adding, why not throw down some protein while I'm at it? In went the chopped spinach, and a can of black beans (drained and washed).

It came out way better than I expected, and Steve and I were attacking it all day!

18 November 2007


"Baby, have you seen my sea salt? It seems to have run off somewhere."

It was sitting there on the dining room table as he fried up some hash browns. "Here it is," he said.

I picked it up, and was about to walk out with it. "I was just about to use it, though."

"I was just about to put it back in my purse."

I love the fact that he didn't skip a beat as he sprinkled some onto the golden potatoes, and handed me back my secret stash to replace in my bag.

17 November 2007

Weather's getting /really/ cold

I finally have a set schedule for work, so that means that I'll be able to more quickly and efficiently settle in, now that I can plan for my days off, and get the specific things done that I need to get done. :) Fortunately, they're all night shifts, so I don't even have to get out of bed until like 1 PM; unfortunately that means that I'll be getting home late enough that I won't be able to get out of bed until at least noon! To be fair though, this is the sort of schedule I'd wanted when I was back in Florida.

I either wanted it to be so early (like 5 AM or something) that I could have the rest of my day, or so late (like past 3 PM) so that I could get up rather late. This whole 9 am - 5 pm thing was ridiculous. I had to be awake early, but by the time I got home, I needed to get other things done that I couldn't get done (because those stores/banks/places) would be closed already. So I'd have to run around on my lunch hour to get those errands handled, and it wasn't working for me at all. Boo.

I did do the cooking for the SEAL NYU event last night. It was a collaboration between socialist/leftist people, and animal rights people. The panel was made up of people (like Steve) who were socialist and animal rights activists. They used a lot of big words, and it flew over my head. However, the main thing that I did catch was that capitalism tends to reduce people to numbers. That is, the purpose of capitalism is to make the biggest profit possible for the few who are in charge of the whole.

That's what it is. What it looks like is mass human slavery (be it the kind where it was obvious, or whether it's Wage Slavery), exploitation of women and children workers, mass cruelty to animals, exploitation of animal's bodies, the products of the animals' bodies, and the secretions of their natural life cycles, be it milk, eggs, urine, sweat, etc. It looks like the current climate, where there is a complete disregard for thinking, feeling, sentient beings, be they the ten year old little girl working in a sweat shop, the "blue collar" worker forced to take on difficult, life threatening, and/or demeaning jobs just so that his family can have enough food and shelter to survive. It looks like the marketing ploys that Animal Agriculture uses to allow people to euphemise the suffering with labels like "grass fed," "organic," "free range," or "cruelty free," when to the workers, the animals being murdered, and the ecosystems laid to waste to continue the system, cruelty free is a joke.

It was quite an interesting panel, and I learned a lot about how people can have those "aha" moments of enlightenment, and I learned how some other people, even in the face of reasoned logic, can still be completely blind to things that they haven't come to terms with yet. I respect those people for coming to a conference where their deeply held ideals of what's right and wrong will be challenged, but I wonder whether there have been any inroads made, when their primary concern is whether or not we'll run out of oil, when the concern should be that the process of drilling for and using oil harms the environment. When questions like "Well, if we all did what you're doing, humanity would be doomed!!!" came out even after it was clearly explained that we're fighting for the rights of sentient beings. Of course the current paradigm will be doomed! That's the whole point!

I hope that those people continue to question, and continue to find people who are as patient and well spoken as the panel from last night. I hope that they find the answers they're seeking. They wouldn't be asking these questions if there wasn't already some small seed that's been planted already. I consider it a very positive step. I just wish they'd hurry up so that we can get more people!

14 November 2007

Getting stuff done!

I FINALLY got my knives sharpened at ABC Knife Grinding in Brooklyn. They wanted a couple of hours, but when I got back, they charged me REALLY cheap prices. In Manhattan, there's a store called Westpfalz, that does top quality knife sharpening for $25 per knife. The other knife sharpening people I couldn't even find. Instead, I figured I'd give Brooklyn a chance, because this is ridiculous that I live near so many different ones, and I wasn't taking advantage of it. So I got back to pick up my knives, and the guy tells me that it's going to cost $15. "Each?" "No. All of them!" Happily, I paid my money, and went off on my way.

Just as a friendly reminder, make sure to get your knives sharpened at least once a year. A sharp knife is less dangerous than a dull one. With a sharp knife, when you make a cut into something, the cut will go through the thing, and get it over with. With a dull knife, however, when you make a cut, you have to saw back and forth, and often times, the blade will slip. While it doesn't cut the vegetables very well, it'll cut your skin juuuust fine. Real fair, right?

Never fear, though. Every city that has any concentration of restaurants will have a knife sharpening person somewhere in there. If you make friends with the chefs at your favourite restaurants, the chef can tell you where they send their knives. The professionals send theirs out twice a year.

There's a difference between honing a knife, and sharpening a knife. Those sharpening steels that come with your knife are meant for honing. During regular cutting, from the impact of the edge of the knife on the cutting surface, the edge goes out of alignment, and gets curved or bent. What honing does is to align the edge of the knife to a straight point. In the long term, however, the sharp edge starts to corrode, and the knife goes outright dull. This is caused by regular wear and tear. This is where sharpening comes in.

It should only be done by a professional, because it involves fairly expensive equipment. That being said, the same professional who sharpens your knives will often be able to sharpen your garden shears and other scissors as well. I encourage you to find your local knife sharpener, and get this done right!

12 November 2007


Sorry about the scant updates, folks. Life has thrown a monkey wrench into the works, and I've been running around like a crazy person! I started here at Sacred Chow Sunday morning at 11, and I've already created a soup of the day, a protein of the day, and a vegetable of the day. I almost forgot the bounty of the grain of the day! They all came out wonderfully.

For the grain, I made a Zanzibar Pilao, which is a celebratory dish made with rice (I used brown rice instead of white), vegetables, and lots of rich, fragrant spices. The vegetable was a yucca and butternut squash that I did up with more yummy spices. For the protein (I know, I know, it's shocking, but I do know how to make tofu), I did a groundnut tofu. For the soup, I did a Moroccan lentil soup (the basic lentil soup from the book, with the addition of lots of tahini and lemon). All of it was mucho yummy, and we've all been sneaking bits of it when we get a few minutes of down time. In case you haven't noticed, I've been in a distinctly African mood today. I even wore a lovely maroon dashiki to suit my mood. :)

The owner is a sweetheart, and lets us who work here eat the food whenever we get hungry. The coolest part of all, however, is the fact that everyone likes everyone else. We enjoy the company of each other, and we can laugh and joke while getting the work done. And, besterest of all, the owner is letting me be me. :)

10 November 2007

Recoloured Hairs

I went to get my hairs coloured. I think I like how it came out!

09 November 2007

Studio B

I'll be at Studio B (259 Banker St in Brooklyn) so if you're out my way, say hi! I recently got my hair coloured, with red streaks in it, so I will be looking a bit different. Thus far, I've done my partying in Manhattan, so I think it'll be fun to see what Brooklyn has to offer too!

Today, I plan on mooching around my neighbourhood. I need to hit up an Indian store near my house to snag some last-minute ingredients for cooking, as well as run down to some shoe stores and get myself some walking shoes. Oh. And I need socks.

I remember when I was growing up, my mother would get us kids gifts like fresh new underwear and socks for our birthdays, and a new shirt or trousers for Diwali (major Indian holiday). We'd get shoes when she was able to find them on sale at the store, or at garage sales or second hand stores. Right about now, I could really really really use a few sets of birthday presents. It's not that I can't afford these things, but more that I'm feeling phenomenally lazy, and don't feel like schelpping out there to beyond the beyonds to figure out ... foundational clothing.

08 November 2007

Cooking in New York City, Baby! and other stuff.

While listening to the beautiful, intelligent, well spoken and talented Ms Colleen Patrick Goudreau (and if you haven't done so yet, go out and subscribe to her podcast via iTunes now, please), I jumped on the L train headed to Manhattan. I disembarked from the train, and tried to locate the #@$#ing knife sharpening store that I had located on the Googles. As has been the case this entire day, the search was utterly fruitless, and it was only because of Ms Colleen's voice that I kept from swearing loudly and colourfully.

But that's neither here nor there. No, the purpose of the story is to update you all on my adventures in New York City. Anycow, I was wandering the streets, and finally made it into Sacred Chow, on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. It took me an hour to find it, because I kept going in the wrong direction. According to the pedometer on my phone, I walked around 20.2 km yesterday, and a goodly 15.1 km today. New Yorkers really walk everywhere, and it looks like I've become accustomed to this new way of thinking.

Just one more minor digression, and we'll be back to today's updates. Yesterday, we hung out at two vegan lesbians' house and cooked at the end of the day. What an outstanding way to spend spare time! We had so much fun hammering out a meagre 4 dishes (which I made in large quantity to make up for the lack of variety), chatting, laughing, joking, and all the requisite things that good friends can do together. The funny thing is that this was the fist time we'd met! I encourage all you vegans to get into each other's homes, and cook together. Sharing that meal makes the eating an event, rather than a regular daily occurrence, even if that meal is simple (like the one we shared last night). We made a lentil soup, a vegetable soup, some Unslaw (from the cookbook), and Indian roasted potatoes. There was also some rice, of course.

So I made it to Sacred Chow for my ... Wait for it ... Wait for it: Interview.

Which I thought would be for a server position (I would do anything to get my foot in the door of a vegan restaurant).

But the owner wants me cooking.

We chatted for the better part of an hour and forty five minutes. We chatted about food, cooking philosophy, my getting over my fear of omni subs and trying out new things (because they were yummy), my mother, my mother's influence on my cooking, my mother's legacy to me (the love of cooking). We talked about events that we could have at the restaurant, about work schedules on busy days and empty days, about ideas that I had for new recipes, new presentations, new ways of getting bodies into our seats.

We talked about his beautiful son (he's 5). About his son's cavities. About his lack of cavities. We talked about Steve, and how much Steve supports me in every way, every day, and makes me utterly revel in creation, rather than living each day. We spoke about having respect for all life, and reflecting one's daily journey in that respect.

We joked about the heat of the summer causing us to want to shed the clothes and go back to nature. We discussed Ethiopian food. We talked South Indian fusion food (which I love to make of course). I told him about cooking with my friends in Jersey, and how I plan on going back to do so on the 25th of this month. I told him my dreams, my hopes, my desires to be a vegan chef. He told me of his vision for the place, of his hopes, his dreams, his desires.

In short, rather than having an interview, I feel that I have made a friend. It is my sincerest desire that I get to work there as the fantabulous vegan chef that I have waiting to come out and play. That being said, I think it's even more important that I met such a compassionate, kind, loving soul, and made a connection with a like-minded being. It was such a revelation of what a job should be like.

After that, feeling fairly giddy on the wings of having met a new friend, I wandered off to seek yet another store that was supposed to be able to sharpen the knives. No luck again. I walked up a few blocks to yet ANOTHER place. Nothing. I'm going to have to try my luck tomorrow at the Chelsea Market, and hope for the best. This severely sucks.

It can't however, take away my elation at the thought of being a vegan chef! There would have been hundreds of people who apply to get in to work at Sacred Chow, but I got it! I feel like I've truly arrived in the city now, and that I have a life here.

Glove love.

I went shopping all over the city. I need all sorts of winter clothes, and figured that it'd be a good idea to hit up some second hand stores. I wandered about, and found some fantastic bargains. Just by chance, I happened upon a store where they had these gloves at $1 per pair. For whatever reason, there were three pairs left. I bought all three. I couldn't figure out why, because I can only wear only pair at a time, and it's not like I'm suffering from an overabundance of space. Maybe the answer would come later on.

I had a lovely lunch at a cute little bistro, and kept walking. There were two men sitting on the sidewalk, with a sign in front of them. "Homeless, cold, and hungry. Need winter clothes. Anything will help." So that's what the extra pairs of gloves were for! I handed (hah!) them over, and walked off far less confused than where I started.

05 November 2007

Back from CT

On Tuesday afternoon, I made a quick trip out to Connecticut to visit with my mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law. To say that it was quiet out there in CT would be horribly understating the sheer deafening quiet that pervaded everything. The only noises you'd hear were the footsteps of people walking about in the house, and the wind gushing all over ... whatever it is that wind gushes all over.

Suffice to say, I was going out of my head, because that level of quiet feel unnatural to me. There weren't any sirens, neighbours chatting on their front porches, dogs barking, cats fighting, parties going, cars zooming by, or any of the other normal noises of a city. Instead, you'd hear the occasional squirrel skittering off to do its squirrely business, and that's only if you were outdoors.

That being said, there were a lot of trees. Let me treet you to the variety. (hah!)

On the train, there was this sign about being cautious of the gap between the train itself, and the platform. For whatever reason, the icon they used to depict this amused me to no end. For any of you who've ridden the MTA CT to NY train, you'll recognise this immediately.

Aside from that was the food. Ever since my sister started college, she'd started compiling cooking techniques. For me, cooking is easy, because I was at my mother's knee the whole time that she was in the kitchen, performing her magic. I'd watch what she did avidly, and later try to replicate it on my own. Many burned pots later, it'd come out just so, and I would interpret the dish in my own way.

My sister, on the other hand, wasn't that much of a kitchen person. For her to have picked up cooking the way she did (via many frantic, panicked phone calls to my mother) is a great accomplishment, and I'm very proud of her. She's become quite accomplished at making uppuma, and rasam. Other than that, she can do a lemon rice in her sleep, or a cocoanut rice with a little motherly advice. Either way, she'd quite good at what she does. The reason we don't have photos of her food is because we ate it all before I got a chance to snap a few shots off.

Oh yeah. And dosa. Both my mother and sister are adept at churning out a perfect dosa lightning quick, at any time of day or night. That was quite a treat, let me tell you. Having fresh, piping hot dosa directly from the frying pan is a treat that must be experienced at least once in your life.

Today, I'm meeting with a person that Steve introduced me to via email. We'll be discussing how to cook for a huge group of people on $75. They haven't seen what I can do yet!