Friday, January 27, 2012

Foraging, Part One

A few weeks ago, my friend Jenelle and I went on a night foraging adventure in Silverlake.  Although several injuries were sustained from prickly pear spikes and an ill-advised grapefruit-grabbing quest, we ended up with a bunch of cool things.  This pesto is made out of the leaves of nasturtiums, which have a mildly bitter taste, like mustard greens, watercress, or dandelion greens.  It tastes more like a zingier version of a parsley or cilantro pesto than like a basil pesto.

Nasturtium Pesto

2 c packed nasturtium leaves, plus a handful of nasturtium flowers
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 c walnuts
juice of 1/2 large lemon
3/4 c olive oil
1/8 tsp salt, adjusted to taste
black pepper to taste

Put everything but the salt and pepper into a food processor and mix until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cider Roasted Veggies, Sauce Returns, Gobbler Slices

Just a few notes from ages ago.

My friend Denise came over to cook dinner and brought it to my attention that the lemon tahini sauce that goes with this braised tempeh recipe is really magical.  Although we made the tempeh as well, I ended up putting the leftover sauce on everything, including the roasted veggies we made.

potatoes, carrots, onions, etc., washed/peeled/trimmed
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB apple cider vinegar
1 c natural apple cider
1 TB agave, honey or brown sugar
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to HOT (375? 400?).  Place veggies in a large oiled baking dish; pour olive oil, cider, vinegar, and agave over them and mix.  Sprinkle herbs, salt, and pepper on top (to taste), and mix again.
2. Cover with foil; cook 40(?) min.  Uncover and cook 15(?) min more, until most of the liquid is gone and the veggies are cooked but not mushy.


I also, ages ago, made these gobbler slices from Vegan Appetite.  I was excited about the idea of making some kind of delicious natural lunchmeat, and about using wheat gluten to make something, steamed like the sausage in vegan brunch.

But I didn't really like them.  I think it was the texture more than anything; I just couldn't really place it in the context of something natural.  I think that if you panfried a slice before putting it on a sandwich it would probably be better, adding a chewiness and a coherence to what's presently just kind of mushy.

Gobbler Slices

1/2 cup (91 g) cooked navy beans
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/4 cups (180 g) vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup (30 g) nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons (15 g) garbanzo flour or soy flour
2 tablespoons (24 g) instant tapioca
One 12-inch (30-cm) piece of foil

1. In a blender, combine the navy beans through (and including) the celery seed. Blend until smooth.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the gluten, yeast, garbanzo flour, and tapioca. Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Add an additional tablespoon of broth (15 ml) or gluten (9 g) if needed to make a soft, workable dough. Knead a few minutes, squeezing to be sure all ingredients are combined.
3. Transfer to the foil. Form into a roll about 6-inches (15-cm) long. Roll the foil around the mixture, twisting the ends to enclose the mixture. Prepare a steamer. Steam the roll for 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing thinly, using a sharp, serrated knife and cutting in a seesaw motion. Store leftovers tightly wrapped in the fridge, for up to one week or freeze airtight.  Yield: 1 roll (20 ounces, or 573 g).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


My friend Alex, cleverly re-interpreting "BYOB," brought a loaf of vollkornbrot to a party I threw this past weekend.

Although the first ruben I made with this bread was prettier and more interesting, I learned the limits of my combinatory palate.  Here's what I did the first time:


Tempeh-Kimchi Ruben (take one)
  • toasted rye bread
  • tempeh (makes 2): marinated the tempeh (cut into four thin square pieces) with 1/4 onion, thinly sliced in rings, 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp ground mustard, 1/4 tsp caraway; then pan-fried tempeh and onions 3 minutes on each side, then braised with remaining marinade.
  • dressing: vegenaise, chili-garlic sauce, and a little bit of yellow mustard, thinned to desired consistency with water
  • kimchi
Ok, it was good, but every time I bit into a piece of ginger in the kimchi, it clashed with the caraway on the tempeh.  It was just a little too weird for me.  So I went out and got some plainer pickled cabbage and made it again (with the same tempeh), adding avocado:

... not as pretty, but a whole lot more cohesive in terms of taste.  Delicious!

Still, this felt like a bit of a defeat.  My kimchi-tempeh ruben could have achieved world peace!  Tempeh already had diplomatic aspirations!

Here's what I've concluded, though it's as yet still untested.  I think my gingery kimchi could be part of the most amazing ruben of all time, but we're going to have to lock caraway out of the party.  I suggest a new marinade for the tempeh (see "version two").

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pumpkin Chili

This chili recipe was a great surprise.  Adding pumpkin puree sounded a little odd to me, but as it wasn't a ton, I think it just made the chili creamier and added a slight sweetness.

In adapting this recipe from Janet's blog, I used bulghur instead of TVP.  I may also have fudged some of the measurements, as I was just throwing in cans of stuff.  I'd forgotten how easy chili is to make!  Like any chili, this recipe is pretty flexible, but the smoked paprika was fantastic, so I wouldn't skip that.  I like my food pretty spicy these days, and I thought 2 jalapenos and 3 TB of a pretty spicy chili powder weren't all that hot, but more heat-sensitive palates might proceed with caution.  I also changed up some of the method, and added more stock for the lentils and bulghur to absorb.

While this was stewing, I whipped up some cornbread from the recipe in the Bittman Bible.  I used soymilk+vinegar for buttermilk, flaxseed+water for egg, and canola oil instead of butter.  It's gotten to the point that these substitutions are almost automatic.

Pumpkin Chili
(adapted from taste space)

3 TB olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 small jalapenos, finely chopped
28 oz canned whole tomatoes, undrained
2 tomatoes, diced
2 TB tomato paste
4-5 c vegetable broth
2 TB lemon juice
2 cans cooked beans (or prepared dried equivalent)
1/2 c uncooked lentils
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
3 TB chili powder, or to taste
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 c bulghur wheat
1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil and sauté the onions, adding the garlic and jalapenos a few minutes later.  Cook until the onions become translucent.
2. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, and lemon juice.  Increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the beans, lentils, cinnamon, paprika, and chili powder, then cover, reduce heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally.
3. After two hours, mix in the pumpkin puree, bulghur, and salt. Let simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes, or until the chili thickens.  Serves 6-8.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"The Gay Diet"?

A link on facebook to an article on the Guardian website on "The Gay Diet" sent me on a hunt for articles about food, gender, and sexuality.  I know there's a ton of critical and book-length work on these issues, but I was curious about what people are saying in shorter, more--ahem--digestible types of work.

"Concerned with looking tough, men opt for macho grub" (Toronto Star, 2010) cites a study that makes the groundbreaking revelation that "men really are concerned with eating manly foods, opting for a cup of Joe over a café latte, spaghetti with big homemade meatballs over a tomato and basil sauce, and salad piled with cold cuts and cheese over something more worthy of being called a salad."

...which prompts half-baked evolutionary interpretations of this phenomenon.  Riddih Shah, however, in "Men eat meat, women eat chocolate: How food gets gendered" (, 2010) notes that "the U.S. has perhaps one of the more gender-segregated eating cultures in the world. (Can you imagine a French woman saying she stays away from red meat or a French man saying that chocolate is chick food?)."

I've got a lot more to say about this, but I'm curious if any readers want to join in on the conversation.  It's no revelation that all kinds of eating practices, food choices and attributes are gendered; it seems like bitterness (manly) and sweetness (girly) are among the most gendered in American culture, but most gendered of all is the extent to which the food resembles human flesh.  Crazy?  Well, think about meat vs. vegetable, fish vs. steak, even red wine vs. white.  (I think wine-vs.-beer, though, derives more from Francophobia and the counter-definition of a hearty, proudly uncultivated, masculine Anglo-American character)

Shah cites scholarship that suggests that people "are more likely to eat a food when they associate with it qualities they’d like to see in themselves," a notion I recently entertained on this blog.  More to be said here.  But I'm also reminded of Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman, in which the protagonist identifies more and more strongly with her food and becomes unable to eat any of it.  This text portrays a very different understanding of eating.  If we identify with our food, is eating violence or incorporation?  Does it make us vulnerable to illness, change our bodies, erase our selfhood, or is it an act of dominance and possession?  And has anything been written since Carol Adams's slightly embarrassing Sexual Politics of Meat and the more amazingly titled Pornography of Meat

Also, check out this ridiculous Burger King ad.

So.  It's obvious that food is gendered in my culture.  Is there really a "gay diet," though?  It sounds as though Simon Doonan's Gay Men Don't Get Fat, which prompted the Guardian article, mostly just associates "gay" foods with "girly" foods...  A similar elision happens in the hilarious "SOY MAKES YOU GAY" articles I have to reread from time to time.

Perhaps a better question is, are there queer eating practices?  I've noted before that an overwhelming portion of vegetarians and vegans are queer (and/or female).  Maybe this has as much to do with cultural correlation as it does anything else--as in, if you're already a sort of cultural minority you're more likely to question other cultural dominants?  Then again, for every vegan lesbian I know, I know another lesbian who goes out of her way to talk about how much of a carnivore she is.

There are so many different gender/sexuality/culture matrices at work here, and this post is sloppy, impressionistic, and anecdotal.  Alas.  Happy Friday!


And here's what you sick people really come here for.

Sesame Panko Tempeh Cutlets with Tonkatsu Sauce 
(testing for Terry Hope Romero's new cookbook)

Kimchi Tofu Eggplant Stew (also tester)

Pasta and Squash with Homemade Pesto

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

South Asian Cabbage Salad

On my vacation, I spent time in Asheville, in Minnesota, and in Chicago.  This latest image comes from that last leg of my travels.

One night in Chicago I cooked dinner for some people.  We wanted something interesting, cheap, and not fussy, so... duh.  We went for baingan bharta, dal with ginger and lime, and some rice with stuff in it.  What's fun is that by this point I can make these dishes without a recipe at all.  I also realized that frying mustard seeds in the tempering oil for the dal gives the final product a wonderful extra texture.

And then to go with these dishes, I made a salad that turned out great!  It's a bit like this brussels sprout dish, but napa cabbage is so much more delicate, it doesn't need cooking.  Moreover, I used the technique, more often found in macrobiotic cooking, of "pressing" the salad to tenderize it.  Anyway, this is one of the best salads I've had, hands down, and it's EASY.  The textures are crunchy but light, and the fried spices and toasted coconut round out the generous dosage of lime juice, while the fact that those spices are cumin and mustard give the salad a bit of pungency.

South Asian Cabbage Salad

2 lbs napa cabbage (1 small whole one), shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 tsp? salt
1 TB? oil
1 tsp? mustard seed
1 tsp? cumin seed
1/4 c? unsweetened coconut
lime juice (of 1/2-1 lime?), to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
(salt to taste)

1. Put cabbage and carrot in a large bowl with some salt; massage it to mix, then set aside, with several heavy plates on top pressing down on the cabbage.  Leave it that way for an hour?  If you're using regular cabbage I think the time is more important than with napa cabbage.
2. In a small frying pan, heat oil.  Fry mustard and cumin until mustard starts popping.  Turn off heat and set aside.
3. In a fry pan or toaster oven, toast the coconut until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.
4. Toss the oil and spices with the cabbage and carrots.  Stir in coconut.  Add lime juice and red pepper flakes to taste, as well as more salt, if desired.  You could also fry dried red chilies (perhaps 1?) in the oil with the spices and omit the red pepper flakes in this step.  Serves about 4.


Upon returning home to LA, there was NOTHING perishable in my kitchen.  I had, however, made a batch of something resembling this kimchi before leaving town.  So I whipped together some noodles with tahini-tamari sauce, chili-garlic paste, kimchi, and some torn up nori.  Yum.  I guess the pre-refrigerator days are the reason things like dried seaweed and pickled cabbage even exist.

And yes, it looks a lot like the salad above, but it tastes totally different!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Happy New Year!  I'm finally back from traveling.

I always forget to use wild rice.  I think this recipe came up on finding vegan and reminded me of the wild rice I brought back from Minnesota almost a year ago.  Although my soup ended up being rather underwhelming, it also taught me one really useful trick.  Cashew cream, which is so easy, made the soup instantly creamy! and in a non-creepy way; putting soymilk or vegan sour cream or something in a soup seems a little weird.  But this was just cashews soaked in water and pureed, and it made a thick, neutral-tasting cream.

In this recipe, I omitted the "chicken" seasoning and the cornstarch, used regular sodium broth, used white wine instead of sherry, and used an onion instead of a leek.  I found that 6 cups of stock was about right; I've never really liked brothy soups.  Despite the thyme and the mirepoix, however, I thought the soup was a bit bland.  I ended up using lots and lots of black pepper.  I think if you were trying to get your Midwestern grandmother to go vegan, this would be an excellent thing to serve her.

How might I make this more exciting?  More garlic?  More wine?  Mushrooms?  Sage?

Creamy Wild Rice Soup
(adapted from leafy greens and me)

1/2 c raw cashews, soaked for at least four hours, drained
1/2 c filtered water
1 c small diced carrots
1 c small diced celery
1 onion, chopped
1 TB finely minced garlic (or more)
1 TB finely minced fresh thyme
1/4 c white wine
6 c vegetable stock 
3/4 c organic wild rice
2 TB cornstarch (optional)
1/4 c minced chives
salt and black pepper

1.    Drain cashews and place in a blender along with filtered water and blend on high for about 4 minutes until creamy. 
2.    Strain mixture.  You should have about 3/4 cup of cream.  If less, add additional water.

3.    In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil and add leeks, garlic and thyme and cook until leeks are soft, about five minutes.
4.    Add wine and reduce for a couple of minutes and then add vegetable stock.
5.    Bring broth to a boil and stir in brown rice along with celery and carrots and salt and pepper to taste.
 6.   Reduce to a simmer and cook until rice is tender about 45 minutes.
 7.   Five minutes before serving, whisk together cashew cream or soy milk with cornstarch and add to soup, stirring slowing for about 3-4 minutes until soup thickens.
 8.   Check for seasonings and add more salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4.