Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tasty Bits

Lolo over at Vegan Yum Yum might be brilliant. I've made her crispy sweet and sour seitan twice now, and both times it turned out perfect. It's just like when I was in middle school hanging out at the food court in the mall and getting the sweet and sour chicken from Panda Express, except there's no chicken in it. So, aside from being nostalgiac, it's one of those meals that comes together fast, which is always good. Point is, go check it out for yourself.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I want to say for the record that I think PETA's new ad featuring Alicia Silverstone (who, as an actress, is pretty obsolete anyways) naked in a swimming pool talking about how life-transforming it is to be vegetarian, is pretty retarded. Okay, so, she's putting herself out there as the 'meat' instead? I don't get how vegetarianism and nudity are linked, other than trying to create the image that a meat-free lifestyle is a sexy one. I guess these days they're giving up trying to appeal to reason and are going for penises.

Alicia Silverstone’s Sexy Veggie PSA
Order a FREE vegetarian starter kit at

Lentil Soup

I've been hungering for lentil soup ever since Cat posted about it on her blog and was fortunate enough to receive a cookbook in the mail which more than answered my prayers. The book in question is Iranian Najmieh Batmanglij's lovely Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Flipping through this glossy tome covering food from China all the way to Sicily (and many unknown places in between), I can sort of drown out the sound of my schizophrenic neighbor's shrieking and dream instead about places with names like Kermanshah and Tabriz. Recipes aside, I love the book for its billions of photos and reliance on history, culture, and geography to illuminate and inform. Plus, she throws in some Rumi every now and then.

I made the Balkh Brown Lentil Soup, but seeing as I lacked brown lentils, butternut squash, rice flour, and angelica powder, modified it for what I did have, namely a 4 year old can of pumpkin, red lentils, regular flour, and ground coriander. Oh, and I threw in some dried chickpeas. Whatever changes I made, it still turned out incredible and very, very different.

(Austerlitz) Red Lentil Soup

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can pumpkin
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 cups red lentils
2 Tbsp flour (diluted into a 1/2 cup water)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp lime juice

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir fry for 20 seconds. Be sure to have the lid on hand as they will spatter. Add the onions, garlic, and pumpkin and stir fry for 10 minutes.

2. Add the water, salt, pepper, lentils, and boil. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally (about 50 minutes).

3. Add flour, chili powder, and orange juice and boil. Simmer for another 40 minutes. If too thick, add warm water and boil.

Najmieh's website:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Alice Waters

Lunch With Alice Waters, Food Revolutionary, NY Times Sept. 19, an interview and cooking date with the chef of Chez Panisse, and her lovely, simple aioli recipe.
More on her here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Comfort Food

I know it's not Middle Eastern, but damn it, I'm sick, and I want PIE. Our fridge is sadly quite empty right now, and one of our car's tires is compleeeeetely flat, so there's no way that I'm going to make it to the grocery store anytime in the near future. So I was looking at the pantry and the freezer, trying to figure out what I could make with what I had (after laying in bed all day I decided enough was enough and that I should at least cook something). Turns out, I had exactly what I needed to make the blueberry hand pies from Vegan YumYum. I have to say (now that I've had two utterly successful baking experiences), baking with earthbalance is awesome. The crust of these pies tastes so light and buttery, but with low cholesterol and no carbohydrates or transfatty acids. The wee pies were easy enough to make, although I couldn't get my dough as thin as she did in the picture. The dough tastes so good that it doesn't really matter, and of course the fillings are what makes it great anyways.

I made some with blueberries, some with blueberries and ricotta, and then the one last straggler piece (made up of all those bits of leftover dough) with Bonne Maman jam. Hand pies rock my world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ramadan Kareem!

Thursday begins the ninth and most holy month for Muslims around the world, Ramadan; a month of abstention, spiritual reflection, and some intense celebration as well. It is believed that the Qur'an was revealed during Ramadan, the most important night being laylat al-qadr (around the 27th day) when the first verses were revealed to the Prophet. The etymological roots of the word Ramadan relate it to heat, so the ninth was probably the hottest month out of the year, and in pre-Islamic times was known as a month of truce. It is required of every Muslim able to withstand the rigors of fasting to participate in the ritual denial of food, liquids, cigarettes, and sex from dawn till dusk - fasting, or sawm in Arabic, is one of Islam's five pillars. Those who can fast but don't are expected to provide meals for thirty people throughout the month as penance.

I experienced Ramadan in Egypt, and fasted for a day to see what it was like. Of course, I didn't wake up before dawn for prayers and a little meal, so I was starving by mid-afternoon. I also didn't get to experience the spiritual aspects. Everywhere you looked people were reading their pocket-Qur'ans and focusing on what was happening inside as opposed to out (I received nary a sleazy comment nor dirty look that month, making it my favorite).

My university classes had been reshuffled so that they either fell early in the morning or late in the afternoon, which gave people the time to go home in midday and sleep. I'd get out of classes near dusk, and the streets would be quiet and empty. People are either in their homes, or at large outdoor gatherings located near a mosque, such as the Husayn Mosque in Khan al-Khalili. Every spot at the long tables set up outside is taken. Following the dusk prayer, known as maghrib (which refers to the sun setting in the west), the Iftar (breaking of the fast) feast begins. Food is distributed and people heartily devour it, spending a long time at the table and lingering afterwards late into the night over ahwa, coffee. People visit one another in their homes, bringing food and especially sweets like ba'lawa (you might know it as baklava - I became addicted to this stuff after moving to Egypt).

So, this next month I'll focus primarily on foods of the Muslim world, and hey, maybe I'll throw my own Iftar.

For some more info, here's the article on Ramadan from the Routledge Religion and Society Encyclopedia.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ideas in Food

Here's a really interesting blog by two chefs, Aki Kamozawa and H.A. Talbot, where they ruminate on their kitchen experimentations. The latest entry is on overcooked cock's combs, and I especially enjoyed the bits on tomato terrine and hot dog stock (with toppings). It was mentioned in a New York Times article on consommes, and how right now you can make one out of basically anything provided that you have some gelatin and a fridge. Hmmm...cake essence? Essence of grass? Could be fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Load up the Hummer, Ma, we're going to Washington.

Studies now show that dietary changes can drastically impact greenhouse gas buildup, and that the practice of raising meat (not to mention transporting it, and of course the massive amount of space and energy it takes to grow feed corn, the environmental damages caused by erosion, or by nitrogen pollution leading to giant anaerobic 'dead zones' in bodies of water, say, like the Gulf of Mexico...), is the biggest contributor to global warming in the United States. An article in the NYTimes recently discussed the more active roles being taken by various animal rights groups in highlighting the connection between diet and environment. Their goal is to point out that people can go on and on about cars, and changing their lifestyles, but that to truly make effective differences one really must change their lifestyle.

I'm a vegetarian not because I don't like to eat meat, or because I think it's intrinsically wrong to do so (and I probably would eat meat under particular conditions), but because as a person who considers themselves fairly 'aware' of what's going on in our world, I don't think it's ethical to do so. While I at times think the more orthodox vegans can be obnoxious in the way only 'fundamentalists' can be, the call for self-control implied in the major changes in lifestyle necessitated by a transformed and transforming world highlights most people's bottom-line unwillingness to do more than pay environmental lip-service. Our culture of self-indulgence (where a sense of entitlement seems to be the ugly step-sibling of the American dream), needs to be shaken like a baby will be seriously challenged in the years to come, and people absolutely will be forced to make changes in their lives beyond using long-lasting lightbulbs.

Here's the University of Chicago report by Eshel and Martin (2006), Diet, Energy, and Global Warming where much of the data comes from.

Meat Production 'Beefs Up Emissions' September 7th, The Guardian

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Syrian-Jewish Cooking

NYTimes (cook)book review of Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews by Poopa Dweck. Yo le quiero.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Beans and Rice

So lovely, so simple, such a perfect combination. Beans and rice, or rather, legumes and a grain, form a whole protein and contain all the essential amino acids one would need whatever it is we do with amino acids (forming muscles, hormones, hair, eyeball juice, you name it). Aside from soy (which does contain the necessary amount of aa's to form a complete protein), other vegetables must be combined with the incredible edible bean in order to access the building blocks of life, and for a very low, low price. The combination of beans (easily grown, stored, and prepared) or a similar legume with rice or another grain (also easily grown, stored, and prepared), is exploited around the world as the basic foundation for any meal. Perhaps it's the perfect meal. It's certainly a proletariat meal.

In New Orleans, red beans and rice are eaten on Mondays because of laundry. I've heard two versions of this story, first, that laundry was simply done on Mondays and so the excess water was used to cook the beans. In another, slaves were given the laundry water to use for themselves after washing the clothing of their masters, and as I recall, this fell on a Sunday, so that the beans were able to soak for the night. RB&R is still the traditional Monday lunch special, my favorite being at Dunbar's on Freret (sadly defunct/moved), paired with the most incredible friend chicken on the planet.
(Here's a Dookie Chase recipe for red beans.)

While you can get a whole protein by eating peanut butter on whole wheat toast, I prefer to go the beans and rice route. However, I like to vary the form which my beans take. Last night I made black bean patties with pineapple rice, yet another recipe from the only place where I seem to be getting my recipes from. This is an incredibly delicious mix of sweet and salty, with a little bit of crunch, and it turned out to be pretty simple. It would also be easy to pull together a large batch for entertainment purposes, and I doubt that anyone would shy away from them. I recommend adding a little cornmeal to the bean mash, for consistency. Cooking Light also tends to do little things to cut back on the amount of cholesterol and fat that go into their recipes, but fie on them, I would toss the egg yolk in there, too. Oh, and boil-in-bag? Please, take the time to make your rice right.

Cuban Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice (Cooking Light, March 2007)

1 (3 1/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups rinsed, drained canned black beans (1 [15-ounce] can), divided
1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup cornmeal
Cooking spray
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

To prepare rice, cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; place rice in a large bowl. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pineapple; sauté 4 minutes or just until pineapple begins to brown. Add pineapple mixture, cilantro, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to rice in bowl; cover and keep warm. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.

To prepare patties, place 1 1/2 cups beans, garlic, cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl; partially mash with a fork. Place 1/2 cup remaining beans and egg white in a food processor; process 30 seconds or until well combined. Add bean puree to mashed beans in bowl, and stir until combined. Add cheese and onion to bean mixture; stir until combined. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish. Dredge both sides of each patty in cornmeal.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Spoon about 1/2 cup rice onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 patty and 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Yields 4 servings.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Down With Crackhead Comfort Food!

After a harrowing morning of dealing with the police (having discovered that my back-of-the-house neighbor's apartment was broken into, after yesterday finding that our shed in the backyard was busted open, Dan's new replacement-for-a-previously-stolen-bicycle stolen), I need to get my mind off of the thought of crackheads running amok and one way to do that is to think about food.

Here's a really quick and easy recipe for some pasta that I threw together yesterday for a small lunch.

Orriechette with Artichoke Hearts and Peas
2 cups orrichette (so named for their resemblance to ears, ear being 'orecchio' in Italian)
1 can artichoke hearts
1 cup frozen peas
shaved parmesan
olive oil
pinch salt

1. Cook the pasta in slightly salted water. At the same time and on a low setting, heat the artichoke hearts in a small amount of oil.

2. Add the pasta to the pan. Add the peas and thaw.

3. Serve with parmesan and a little black pepper.

See! So easy. The sort of sophisticated little dish that you could whip out to impress people on short notice.

2. Add the cooked pasta to the pan

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Happy Birthday

This week has been full of new things. New classes, new birthdays, and baking, which for me, is new. At least, baking well. I made a batch of cookies once but they looked more like splatted cow patties and less like cookies. They tasted like cow patties, too.

I meant to post about this earlier, but like I said, new classes.

It took me a while to figure out what cake I was going to make. At first I was pondering a Persian Love Cake recipe that I found on epicurious, one of my favorite cooking websites. The candied rose petals sounded lovely, but cooking with rosewater reminds of a time when I was a little kid and my mom made rice pudding with rose water, and it wasn't good at all but she made my sister and I eat all of it, and Erica hated it so much that she ended up puking all over the floor (this scenario was repeated several times with a variety of foods and medicines, and usually ended with me cleaning it up...). So, I decided against that, although maybe one day in the future, bolstered by my recent successes, I'll give it a shot. I ended up making a Lemon-Lime Layer Cake that was featured in the September issue of, you guessed it, Cooking Light.

They wanted to cut back on some of the unhealthier things, and so substituted egg beaters for real eggs. I decided to use real eggs, sans yolks, but instead of butter and cream cheese used earthbalance and tofutti cream cheese. Normally, I'm bad at baking because until a few days ago, I assumed that baking was just like cooking. This is wrong! Very wrong! Baking is just like chemistry class, where precise measurements are absolutely necessary in order for the chemical responses to occur at the right time and for the correct duration. Once I understood that, I took great care to ensure that I had just the amount I needed and not more. I did cut back on some of the sugar in the frosting, as 2.25 cups is just a little too overzealous. 2 cups were just fine.

So, the cake turned out amazing. Dan told me after taking his first bite that he was prepared to lie about the whole thing and say that it was great, but it really was great. Incredibly moist and citrusy, the frosting sticky and drippy and perfect. I decorated it was crepe myrtle and jasmine blossoms from the front yard.

Unfortunately, my digital camera broke my last day in Singapore, but I took a photo with my new cell phone camera, and as soon as I figure out how to work the damn thing, I'll post it.

Make this cake!