Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Great Vegan-or-Egg Debate / Eggstravaganza

Brace yourselves for a gasp-worthy revelation--I am not fully vegan. I eat eggs...not that often, but I do eat eggs. Before you scream fowl (puns!), know that I will accept the moniker of egg-eater.

But let me first tell you a little story. I grew up in the lovely little town of Perushtitsa, in Bulgaria. My grandparents, like all other "village peeps," were leading a sustainable lifestyle long before it was in. We had sheeps, goats, chickens, and turkeys...sometimes even rabbits. We had cherry, apricot, and apple trees. We always ate well, thanks to the fruits of our labors. Ever since I was little, I had an especially soft spot for birds and chickens in particular. I remember peeking in their chicken lodge (too fancy to be called a coop :) at night, around 8PM or so, and marveling at them sleeping on their perches. I always wondered how they managed to not fall off. To this day, I still smile inside when I hear "going to bed with the chickens" because I saw it first hand! They looked so peaceful. I also love sparrows. We owe them a lot--they suffer through winter so they can remind us how beautiful birds are. Holy, even. I can't draw to save my life, yet the first time I sat down to try and paint, I painted these two. I guess they had been quietly chirping in my heart, waiting to come out.

All this to say that I love chickens to no end. You might ask then how I reconcile that with eating eggs once in a while...well, despite objections that there is no such thing as an "ethical egg," I am not sure I would agree. Our chickens seemed pretty happy. I like to think that by buying free-range farm eggs, I am on the same tip. But I know I can't call myself "vegan," except that it is a lot easier to just tell people you are practically vegan rather than go into the nuances of your eating habits. Arguably.

So join me on this little leap of faith/flight of fancy for a moment--set aside your cheating-vegan-bashing and read on.
This post is about my fairy godmother; my ITALIAN fairy godmother. Pro tip: when choosing honorary godmothers, choose well. And if you insist she is your fairy godmother long enough, she will eventually relent. My fairy godmother Mary is a culinary queen of unparalleled skill. She also loves Shakespeare. And used to wind-surf. And make chocolates. And visit Japan. And Bulgaria. World, lucky for you (since I am lucky to call her my godmother), I will share much of her savory savant-ness in this blog.

You will benefit from my self-inviting myself (nothing new for us Bulgarians) "na gosti"--i.e. cooking lessons :)

Pro tip: presentation, presentation, presentation. Thankfully, I have excellent knife skills, if I do say so myself--humble, aren't I?

Take a look at what a little cutting on the bias can do; dainty and lady-like, no? Will take your vegetables from blah to va-va-voom. The carrots are cooked with fennel--because same family vegetable go well together. We also made a celeriac root and nectarine salad (with white balsamic vinegar)--so simple. Just boil the cubed celeriac and assemble.

Moving on to cookings. The key to the most beautiful scrambled eggs is...drum roll...slow, lowish heat and ridiculously fresh eggs with beautiful *orange* yolks. They look like smiling suns to me, in my heliocentric Toni way :)
You don't need cream or milk or water to create fabulous scrambled eggs. Just don't overcook; take your time.

I have been consistently and insistently obsessed with these next ones--Jose Andres-style scrambled eggs. First step is to caramelize onions (if you don't know what that is or think it involves sugar, get off my blog now! Just kidding.). The key is to have equal parts onions and eggs. Crucial. Don't overcook, again.
And for the grand finale, lemon chess pie. I love lemons and I love chess--I have managed to beat my 13 y.o. Bobby Fisher chess prodigy of a brother three times now (the little rapscallion has beaten me more times than I can count). Whoo hoo. At any rate, I will one of these days figure out how to make this pie sans eggs and present you with the recipe, hand-written by me no less. The pie crust on this one is darn nigh divine.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hail Seitan!

Let's start this post in an appropriately Behemoth way:

A couple of months back, I had the idea of starting a black metal yoga monthly event I fondly titled DOOMASANA. With a tongue firmly planted in my cheek (and if you read this blog and know how much cooking I do, you can see why freeing it from chewing duty was a nigh impossible feat), I lovingly dubbed it "yoga to the soothing sounds of Behemoth." And of course, the requisite taglines followed (because I love puns) about "heads will yoga poses," and "exorcizing your inner demons." And etc. and viscera and so on. Well, to my great delight, the event was quite a success which, of course, I measure by how much fun we had. And since it was pleasing to the (Dark) Lord, I decided to do DOOMASANA, The Second Coming. But back to talking about Behemoth and black metal in general. I can comfortably say that my iPod shuffle will often play Slick Rick and Slayer back-to-back. I love drum'n'bass, edm, hip hop, and black metal, but I really, really love Behemoth! You see, Behemoth and some other bands in the scene are a theology/literature/psychology major's wet dream (I am guilty of all of the afore-mentioned). "Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel," is but a snippet of the veritable treasure trove that is the Behemoth opus. Everything is upended and inverted (and subverted)--a Christian mass becomes the vehicle for a very painful "cleansing," complete with vomiting blood, viscera, and being be-thorned--ha! I slay (er) myself! In the end, the girl becomes Gabriel, in a sense. She can blow her trumpets to signal a message not of judgement but of liberation. A new dawn. Or something like that. All this to say that maybe people should stop taking black metal so literally and start it taking it more literature-ally. As Nergal explains, "For me personally, I’ve always related to antiheroes. In most cases they were scapegoats, martyrs and negative archetypes, tools that were used in order to make other people into slaves. To me, Satan stands for everything that is dear to me. I’ve always been very fond of independence and autonomy and freethinking and freedom and intelligence." As someone who has always related to underdogs and DIY, I can certainly respect this.

So, onwards, to Seitan!

Seitan, or as it is fondly called, "wheat meat," is made out of vital wheat gluten. I have not eaten meat for so long that even meaty-looking things don't look particularly appetizing to me (striated flesh might be to blame), but seitan is a go-to for your carnivore friends to enjoy, as well as you. In fact, the above picture was taken at Thanksgiving and, no, that is clearly not my (hairy) hand :) I am a dainty lady, ruffian! And I certainly don't have hairy palms!