Friday, December 31, 2010

Beans, Beans, The Lucky Fruit

So, this is a long-delayed Christmas-NYE hybrid post in 2 parts. I have amassed a metric ton of things I want to talk about, but my discussion of horrible Christmas songs is slightly mis-apropos at this point so I will only say this: "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus" and "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" have got to be the most inane, and in the case of the former, borderline heebie-jeebie-inducing carols evah! I mean, seriously!? I don't know what is worse--the fact that some child is skulking around, glibly commenting on adultery or that some poor Dad is forced to dress like Santa Claus. In other words, I cannot decide if I feel worse for the kid for being traumatized or worse for the parents who have a kid who immortalizes their sex life in song. But enough of the bah-humbug, lest you, my dear reader think I am a holiday-hater, a Hatorade partaker, which I am so not.

In fact, I am such a holiday lover that this year, I took extra precautions to ascertain I have a lucky 2011 :) To that end, I made *phenomenal* [if I do say so myself] black-eyed peas.
Here is what you do:
1. Soak black-eyed peas overnight, changing the water several times.
2. In a pan, saute one chopped red onion [white is OK too] and garlic [2-3 cloves] in some olive oil.
3. In the mean time, cook the black-eyed peas either in a pressure cooker or a regular pot.
4. Add 1-2 teaspoons of cumin [crucial addition], along with somethings spicy-ish, preferably chipotle pepper flakes If you are a hotness wuss or a Bulgarian, forget the spicy part. Also, add a teaspoon or two of fresh or dry sage.
5. Add the sauteed onion mixture into the black-eyed peas when they are halfway through cooking. Salt as needed.
6. Voila! This could be garnished with some fresh lime, I find apple-tasting things also work well like apple cider vinegar, any other vinegar, but even plain, they are delicious.

Also, notice my obsessively-prepared fruit-plate. According to some traditions, it is good to have circular foods for New Year's, like donuts, bagels, round fruits. And thirteen appears to be a lucky number so...boy, it's pretty apparent I am desperate for some good mojo, huh? I am even wearing yellow polka-dotted underwear. "My pockets stuck on overload, my rain never evaporates" will be the outcome. Maybe even "rubberband banks in my pocket."

P.S. When that happens, I am hiring a Lloyd Dobbler-like person to follow me around with a jukebox everywhere, blasting Rick Ross' "Hustlin'" or something boss like that.

Anyway, my dear friends, I wanted to wish everyone a very happy new year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Luna-cy


On Tuesday, I saw Black Swan and I immediately wondered if Clint Mansell had also done the soundtrack for this movie--as he had for Pi and Requiem For A Dream, the other Darren Aronofsky flicks. Surely enough, he had, and this immediately made me think of his phenomenal work on the Moon soundtrack. The soundtrack and the movie really touched me profoundly, and not the least because of my childhood fascination with all things cosmonautical and Laika-related :) Add to that the very rare lunar eclipse that happened on Tuesday night, and I found myself ruminating on all things lunar and luminous.
Yes, thematically, Moon and Black Swan have nothing in common, but there is this underlying thread about the longing for human contact, an impossibly hopeful/inevitably humbling yen for someone to share something with. Whether across the universe or across the stage, there is this eternal spark in all of us that glows and flashes glimpses of its various parts much like an orbiting planet. I also think it's really interesting that the Moon card in the Tarot signifies "great creativity, powerful magic, primal feelings, and intuition." It's the madness/magic dichotomy.
As a food add-on, let's talk moon cake. I had this during the Festival of the Moon, in the fall. I am posting this picture here because it is so bloody beautiful and even the peaches look like little moons. I had never had a cactus pear prior to this and it is absolutely delicious, replete with little seeds ala pomegranates. It's all the more special because you can only get the moon cake around the time of the festival at Asian stores, so the rest of the time, you get to look at this picture and daydream about it, as I am wont to do.
"I hope life on Earth is everything you remember it to be..."

Memories (Someone We'll Never Know) by Clint Mansell

Welcome to Lunar Industries by Clint Mansell

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Hip To Be Sage


So, you made the gravy from the last post and now have massive amounts of fresh sage--what to do!? [yes, I realize this must be *such a commonplace problem*]. Or you were making stuffing at Thanksgiving and have some fresh sage leftover from that...Well, time to make this acorn squash + sage farfalle. Easy peasy.

Cook about half box of farfalle according to package directions [whole wheat]. In the mean time, roast an acorn squash in the oven--in case you haven't done this, it couldn't be easier. Do not be daunted, my friends. Slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and simply roast at a high temperature. It is done when it is soft.

Start caramelizing some white onions on the stove top. Next add chipotle pepper powder to this--I find that anything "Mexicany" is really good friends with squash, but the smoky flavor of the chipotle pepper is especially wonderful here. You could also try nutmeg. Julienne some sage and throw that in there as well.

After the pasta is cooked and drained, mix it with the chopped roasted acorn squash. Throw copious amounts of nutritional yeast on top and some sage as a garnish.
I can think of several other good permutations on this...pine nuts, pepitas...

Finally, I have decided to throw in a track or two with my posts. Initially, I was going to theme them, but instead let me just do a "Hey, you should check this out." So, here's a remix of Esthero.
Esthero - Thank Heaven 4 You (Freddie Joachim Vibe Out Remix) by freddiejoachim

Friday, December 17, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy--Veganized, Y'all


I wanted to title this entry Coming In For La Roux [pun on La Roux' "In For The Kill" and the fact that this gravy requires making a roux, but then I realized some of my puns are a little too obscure].
Admittedly, as an Eastern European, my knowledge of Southern cooking is shaky, but everyone loves biscuits and gravy. I usually make black-eyed peas as well [I chalk up my incredibly bad luck/lack of getting lucky? to the fact that I have yet to eat black beans or wear red underwear on New Year's Day]. And trust me--this gravy is truly ridiculously good-tasting--I stand behind it firmly, Titan-like. My struggles with making the perfect gravy have been especially monumental because of my hatred of fat [more on this in later entries] so while my attempts to make this the way I currently do would cause true gravy purveyors much consternation, you are now receiving the fruits of many a lumpy gravy labor. I should also probably mention that unlike some other *cough, cough* rather annoying food bloggers whose constant paeans to their blissful domestic life cause them to post servings large enough for the entire Chinese nation, I cook for one or two people at most so my ingredient sizes do not require you to go to the grocery store and purchase a bison.

Now, the two *CRUCIAL* things to making a good vegetarian gravy are nutritional yeast and fresh sage. Anything less would be uncivilized! Nutritional yeast, admittedly, does not sound too appetizing, but it is what gives the gravy its main delicious flavor. Before you become repulsed, consider this--Vegemite is also yeast-based. Oh, wait, maybe that didn't help much... Fresh sage is what gives it that savory flavor.

For the gravy, you will need:
half a white onion, chopped
mushrooms [button is fine]--about one 8 oz. pack
1/2 C nutritional yeast
4 T vegan margarine
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1C warm water
Worcestershire sauce
Tamari or any soy sauce
5-6 leaves of fresh sage

In a separate pan, saute the onion and mushrooms on medium heat. Do not cook to death, but onion has to be soft and mushrooms kind of cooked.
In another pan, start getting the roux going. Melt the margarine and add in the whole flour, stir, and cook until it has a lovely brown color. Add in the nutritional yeast and continue stirring--all on moderate heat. Add the tamari or soy sauce and the Worcestershire sauce--I am awful with the measuring, but I assure you, Mario Batali does not measure, yo. Just basically do a generous splashing of both. Oh, and make certain you don't have one of those ratty Worcestershire sauces with high-fructose corn syrup in them--read the labels, my friends! Finally, julienne several leaves of sage and throw that in there. Cook all of this a good amount of time--10/15 mins. at least. Then add the onion/mushroom mix and cook all of that for maybe 5-10 mins. longer. Salt + pepper.
In the mean time, get the biscuits going. I used a fairly standard Southern biscuit recipe except I make mine with whole wheat flour:

1 C whole wheat flour [you can use white too]
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3T vegan margarine
1/2C-3/4 C low-fat buttermilk [this varies based on how your dough is doing--it should be stiff but not so dry that it resembles pie crust]. For the vegan version, use unsweetened almond milk.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. I drop them by the spoonfuls on a baking sheet, but you can also roll them out. Bake maybe 10-15 mins.

Boil some water in a pot, throw in some cleaned fresh green beans. Cook for 5 minutes max and then shock them by putting them in icy cold water with some ice in it [to preserve a really nice green color].