Tag Archives: food

We are Vikings!

Three years ago I spent the winter in SE Asia. I started, timid as a mouse, in Bangkok. It was not auspicious. I got bolder and left and went to Ayutthaya, to adjust to the climate and the culture and recover from the jet lag.

Ayutthaya is one of the ancient capitals of Thailand. It’s a beautiful place, and there are many ruins of old temples. The old city is surrounded by a river, so technically it’s on an island. One afternoon I took a long tail boat ride around the island:

longtail boat and driver

We stopped at several sites along the way, visiting beheaded Buddhas,

beheaded buddhas

Buddha heads,

buddha head

and admiring the jackfruit trees.

jackfruit

There were two Norwegian couples on the boat ride with me, one that was middle-aged and the other quite young. We all went to the night market for dinner. We sat outside, in the dark, sweating our asses off at 7:30 at night. Apparently the only food I took a picture of was this fish, which was delicious:

garlic fish

There was also morning glory vines and frog legs. And beer. Which was the point of telling this story. For those of you who know me, you know I’m not a big drinker. I mean, it takes me at least an hour to drink a pint of beer. On a good day. At the night market, they had beer – but only the 22-ounce bottles. I tried to ask if they had the 12-ounce once ones and everyone laughed at me. I recall asking the people I was eating dinner with how they could drink so much.

The young woman turned to me, lifted her bottle and cheerily said, “We are Wikings!”

We all had a good laugh.

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52 Photos: Dessert

This week’s prompt was dessert.

lemon bar

If you give me the choice between a chocolate dessert and a fruit dessert, I will almost always choose the fruit (har har). Even within fruit, there’s a hierarchy, and the citrus sits at the top. Since I only cook/bake vegan at home, home made lemon bars are a treat I’ve gone without for a Very. Long. Time. I have always loved them, and have tried making a few vegan recipes over the years that just disappoint me. I was ready for my heart to be broken again with this one, particularly since the lemon topping uses agar agar flakes, which can have a strong and distinct flavor.

I’m happy to announce that this one wins, in every way. Flavor, texture, and even visually, it is all appealing. There is the added bonus of the lack of egg flavor, the one thing I actually don’t like about the regular lemon bars.

I bake pretty regularly, and despite what I say about the fruit, most of what I make has chocolate in it.

Chocolate thumbprint cookies:
Chocolate thumbprint cookies

Chocolate crinkle cookies:
chocolate crinkles

And my favorite rich treat, vegan peanut butter cream cheese brownie with chocolate chips:
vegan peanut butter cream cheese brownie

And sometimes I just like to buy someone else’s treats:
peppermint cupcake

What’s your favorite dessert? What do you like for someone else to make for you? What do you like to make for others?

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Vegan Cookery

pomegranate


Heh. I love the word “cookery.” It just sounds so … bad-ass and blasphemous. Last night I was asked to share some of my favorite vegan recipes. Since I get this question often enough, I figured it was time to do a blog post. I’m going to rec some of my favorite cookbooks and then point out specific recipes that I love from them. This is in no way comprehensive, but just what came to mind. If the cookbook is out of print and you can’t get it, let me know and I will share the recipe you would like.

Without further ado:

Cooking with PETA
You can say what you want about the organization, but if it hadn’t been for this cookbook, I don’t think my girlfriend would have stayed vegan very long.

  • Crispy Tofu Cubes (we add green bell pepper)
  • Golden Vegetable Noodle Soup
  • Beefless Stew (we use seitan instead of TVP)
  • Tofu Scrambler

Vegan With a Vengeance
Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero really changed things in our house. We particularly love:

  • carrot bisque – add a squeeze of lime juice!
  • make your own seitan!
  • raspberry blackout cake
  • scones
  • I make a pesto recipe that is very close to the one here, except mine has a little bit of miso in it instead of nutritional yeast
  • gnocchi
  • peanut sauce

Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen

  • Make your own garam masala!
  • broccoli with garlic and mustard seeds
  • spicy kebabs (we use seitan instead of lamb – serve in a wrap with baked yam, squeeze some lime on top, yum yum

Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

  • Mock Lamb Curry (I just sub soy sour cream for the dairy)
  • A chickpea curry recipe from Trinidad and Tobago

Sundays at the Moosewood:

  • Ethiopian Lentils
  • Veggie Pot Pie
  • Biscuits (to make buttermilk, I just put ~1tsp of apple cider vinegar in the soy milk)

The Candle Cafe Cookbook has THE BEST spanikopita recipe, vegan or no.

And we have one recipe that we LOVE from Ron Pickarski’s Eco-Cuisineseitan burgers. Do yourself a favor and skip the hazelnut cheesecake with the whole wheat couscous crust, though.

We also have all three dessert cookbooks by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Pie in the Sky. You can find all three here: Post Punk Kitchen: Vegan Baking and Cooking.

I have a few recipes that I just acquired. This is one of my favorites. It’s fairly easy and will wow your friends: Green beans and tofu in a Thai coconut sauce

Would love to hear what some of your favorite cookbooks and recipes are. Please share!

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The Sweetest Cup

green tea gift

I just spent 3 weeks in Japan, traveling around Honshu, the largest island. My last evening was spent in Tokyo, with my mom. We were exhausted, having tried our damnedest to fit it all in, even while resting.

I could tell you about the middle-aged woman we met in Kamikochi, who was there with her husband and parents. She turned out to be a librarian, and she had her iPhone wrapped in a fuzzy bunny that she would pull out every time her husband asked her a question. I could tell you about the young woman in Nara who waited on us in an Italian restaurant and didn’t know any English, but her desire to serve us overwhelmed all fears of exposing her bad language skills.

There was the elderly gentleman who conferred with us on our journey out of Koya-san who had lived in Texas for 5 years, and the young people who worked in the ryokan we stayed at in Kyoto. And the monk with the scar on his scalp at the temple where we stayed in Koya-san whose entire body was an apology.

But this story is for this cup of tea.

One thing seasoned travelers know and understand is that you have to make choices all day long, about everything. About the things that you’ve automated in your daily life at home, like where to find your next meal and what to eat for breakfast and lunch and dinner. This may sound like a treat, but trust me, after 22 days of this, I start to wish I had a refrigerator with some leftovers I could just pull out.

Given that we didn’t have it in us to try something new, we returned to a delightful yakitori restaurant above the Daimaru department store at Tokyo Station. This gave us the chance to catch another sunset behind the train station. You might see why we were tempted to return:

Night falls in Tokyo

Sadly, the restaurant did not have a view. But the staff more than made up for it. When we returned to the restaurant, there was a group of men sitting on a bench outside the entrance. We had seen many lines with seats, so we assumed there was a wait and sat at the end of the bench. We knew it wouldn’t be long before we were seated, based on previous experience. Soon enough, the group was seated and the host/maitre d’ saw us. His face lit up with recognition and he motioned that we should wait a minute. Next thing we knew, he was ushering us in to sit at the bar.

We ordered our food and I, in my broken Japanese, told him we would like rice (gohan?), water (o-meezu) and a beer (biru?). He pulled out the all-Japanese menu and opened it to what I can only assume was the list of beers. My eyes glazed over as I looked at the lines of Japanese characters. I knew that the text read top to bottom, but beyond that I was clueless. He stood behind us, patiently, until I took a stab in the dark and said, “Sapporo?”

He pointed to something on the menu, which I could only guess was “Sapporo” and I said, “Hai! Yes.” I told him I wanted a small one. Having given him the sufficient information, he disappeared and I sank into my chair, elated to have completed the transaction. He returned shortly with my beer and a small bowl, filled with something lumpy and covered in a whitish sauce. He told me it was a pickle, and he stood behind my chair waiting for me to try it. I inspected the bowl and willed my stomach not to churn. It seemed to contain some chunks of chicken, and I considered that maybe they were cured, like ceviche. I didn’t know of any Japanese cuisine that cooked meat that way. I screwed up my courage and stabbed my chopsticks in and plucked out one of the blobs, which threatened to slid out of my tentative grip. I got it in my mouth first and sank my teeth in, relieved to discover it had been cooked. It was cooked! Hallelujah! The maitre d’ stood behind us, waiting to see what I thought.

“Pickle?” I said to him.
“Pickle,” he said, smiling.
I hoped my smile covered my confusion, the lack of vinegar or any acidic tang in my mouth. “Good,” I said, smiling at him. He turned and left.

He returned later with two small bowls piled high with bright pink pickles. The shiso I had taken a picture of the previous visit, and he had stood behind me applauding softly:

red shiso pickle

Except this time there was three times as much. Shiso has a strong perfume and a mild cinnamon flavor, the texture like a cucumber. I knew there was no way I could eat that much of it, no matter how delicious. I hope he wasn’t offended. My mom and I enjoyed our meal, the chicken grilled with leeks, the eggplant, the shishito peppers, and the mushroom stems in butter sauce. Not to mention the giant piles of shiso pickles. Our bodies sated, we rested in our seats, savoring our final evening in Tokyo, the city whirling outside while we relaxed. And then this third gift came to the table, warm and bright.

I wrapped my fingers around the warm ceramic bowl and lifted it to my nose, inhaling the sweet and mildly bitter aroma of the tea. By this point in our travels, we had drunk many cups of tea – from the iced tea offered us in steaming Kyoto to the many pots we brewed in our various lodgings. And this was the best cup of tea. From a technical standpoint, it was perfect – the perfect temperature, perfectly steeped. It was more sweet than bitter, warm but not scalding, grassy without being pungent.

It was made all the sweeter for being our reward, for connecting with people, for having made the effort and being met, for being seen as a fellow human, another traveler on the road. May all your cups of tea be a sweet reminder of our universal connection.

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