Category Archives: Food

Ten Minutes

Just sharing a few short moments from the day.  Like most of my posts, nothing big happens.  That’s a central theme of this blog.  I share glimpses of my mostly quiet life filled with short bicycle rides and everyday food.  I want this site to be an alternative to others sharing extreme bicycle adventures and complex food.  I’d be honored if you’d think of this as a bicycling and vegan cooking blog that Fred Rogers would have linked to.  [Hmm.  This should really be on my about page, so I'm going to copy it there.]  Let’s go.

Above are the remains of the overwintered  cabbage (after I brought home the middle of the stalks with the leaves).  A day after being cut, the flowers are still pretty.  If my mother was local, I would have brought them home and given them to her.  I have a hard time getting comfortable with giving flowers from flower shops.  Most probably have a big carbon footprint.  I’d much rather give flowers I found on the side of the road or some such thing.

Why each cabbage head sprouted five or so stalks is a mystery to me, but it is fun to look at up close.

The video above shows me pedaling home from the community garden.  I love how these videos make me look fast.  Truth is, I was probably going about twelve miles per hour.  If.

Got home and watered the backyard garden.  Putting the hose away, I saw this cutie pie.

It let me make a picture because it was interested in not exposing itself to Frida.  Before I knew the rabbit was there, I let Frida out.  She had walked not five feet from where I found it.  I made the picture quickly and went inside.  Didn’t want to stress it out more than I had.  It stayed there long enough for Lacey to come see it, but was gone a few minutes later.  

Had a nice Other Mother’s Day brunch with the neighbors.  I contributed a tofu salad.  

I borrowed the ingredient list from the Bridge Tofu site, and added a few things.  I like that their ingredient list has nothing funky.  Know that I love me some grape seed oil fakin’ mayo, but tahini instead feels better.  Details? Mooshed up Bridge tofu plus chopped green garlic, celery, carrots and sweet red pepper, plus black pepper, cayenne pepper and dill, mixed with a dressing consisting of tahini, vinegar (Lagusta’s peach!), mustard, tamari, miso and apple cider.  Maybe taste the dressing before you add it to the tofu/veggie mixture ’cause as they say you can’t unring a bell.

Later!

Gleaner’s Stew

Waiting to see if the overwintered cabbage would make seeds proved too much for me.  I pulled it out and brought home the leaves.  Without the hedgerow of cabbage, the rows of turnip and beet seeds will get full sun today.  Maybe that’ll wake them up.  

I put half of the cabbage leaves in a gleaner’s stew, together with onions, gleaned garlic, celery, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, quinoa, gleaned oregano, thyme, bay leaves, red pepper, black pepper,  salt, apple cider and water.  A dollop of miso (from Lagusta!) to finish.  So good (even without an acid–I forgot–maybe some apple cider vinegar when I heat up the next pot), and that’s good because I ended up with seven quarts.

Too much sun for a long post.  Be well!

Play it Again

Lacey was jealous that I was able to listen to The Band’s The Last Waltz straight through.  No need, said I.  We spent the evening listening to it together.  Even twice in a day was wonderful.  My two Booker’s with soda didn’t hurt (well, just a little this morning).

My new glasses arrived yesterday.  Love them!  My current pair (below) are vintage American Optical safety glasses that I picked up from a garage sale for $0.25.  

My optician has sent them away to have my prescriptions put in them twice (I’ve been wearing them for about four years).  They were starting to look a little rough.  The plastic covering on the cables had cracked and the metal cables were discolored.  Even though that could be fixed with new rubber covers from these folks, the plastic bridge is developing some small cracks and is yellowing some.  No real fix for that (that I am aware of), so time for new glasses.

My first thought was to order this pair from Shuron.

I’ve had their site bookmarked for years, hoping for a chance to give them a try.  Shuron glasses are still made in the USA and are very fairly priced (ask your optician to order them if they don’t carry them).  Looks like they offer cable temples (to which I am addicted), but as far as I can tell the cable temples don’t come with plastic to match the frame.  Seems like they are just metal, which I think might look kind of wonky on a plastic frame.  My solution was going to be ordering one pair of frames with matching plastic temples and a second set of cable temples and see how they looked.  I asked my optometrist to inquire, but they didn’t get back to me.  Pretty sure they think I am a pain because I am always coming in with used frames in lieu of buying the expensive and boring frames they offer.  Whatever!

While I wondered about the Shurons, though, I found another set of vintage American Optical safety glasses on eBay for $35 (140 times the price of my previous pair, but still a good deal).  I like that they are branded Craftsman (as in Sears) on the right temple.  

I prefer the gray frames to my black and clear old frames (although the combination of gray frames, gray hair and gray hoodie make a pretty bland photo–maybe need a new hoodie color?).  Also rethinking my self-inflicted haircuts.  I’ve been hacking my own for a couple of years now.  I sometimes talk myself into liking the results, but when I shampoo, take a picture and look at the picture all in a day, I lose a fair measure of confidence.  The shampooing, see, yields an undesirable poofing effect.  Nothing a few days without shampooing won’t fix, but still.

The new frames still need lenses.  The lenses pictured are the original glass safety lenses without correction.  Having prescription lenses made for vintage plastic frames is a little dicey.  Plastic can get brittle with age and the lens maker gets paid for the lenses even if the frames crack when they are putting the new lenses in.  I’ve twice had luck with my old pair of AOs, but one never knows.  It’d be sad if the frames cracked.  With vintage frames, you can’t be sure you would find another exactly matching pair to take the lenses you just had made.  I guess I’d just glue the frames together and use them as back ups, but I’d have to cough up a bunch more dough for a presentable pair.

What else?  Arugula pesto!  Before this batch I had only made basil pesto, but I’ve long heard tales of pesto made with assorted yummy herbs and greens.  Yesterday I had gleaned some volunteer garlic from the community garden and later pulled out some arugula from my home plot (arugula has spread into most of the space, so I need to pull it up to make room for other plants).  I whizzed up the arugula and garlic together with toasted walnuts, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper to make a s***-ton of bright green life affirming pesto.  

Mixed a dollop into whole wheat penne (using a quarter cup of pasta cooking water to thin the pesto).  Really nice meal.  If you haven’t gone off the basil tracks, do.  Even if you don’t grow arugula, buying arugula to make pesto has to be way cheaper than buying basil and the change will do you good.

Today I grabbed a growler of Scottish Light from the Pump Station and noticed the Albany Distilling Company right next door.  Until now I hadn’t seen it.  They have a sign over the door, but no other sign suggesting they were open.  I didn’t pull on the door.  Now home, I see their site suggests they are not yet open.  This blog gives some fairly current details.  If you have more recent news, please share.

I have nothing else, so bye!

Freaky Good

I’ve labored through countless ho hum bowls of baba ghanouj (almost all of the them made by me).  For the last three or so years, my recipe has come from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen (a cookbook I’ve had very good luck with).  Don’t get me wrong–the batches that I’ve made using their recipe have been good.  Very good, maybe.

Problem is, I judge all baba ghanouj against a serving bestowed upon me by a small Greek restaurant in the food court of Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.  That baba ghanouj was insane and ruined me for all the rest.  It was like a gift from heaven intended for an under-appreciated saint that I picked up by mistake.  So smoky.  The garlic, lemon and salt were perfect.  Unforgettable.  I have never found the place again.  I don’t go to LA that often and the Bonaventure’s food court is spread over a couple of crazy circular floors.  Seems like I run out of adventurous spirt when I stumble upon this Korean joint (Korean BBQ Plus!) that sets me up pretty well.  Maybe the Greek Place is gone.  Or maybe it is the Olive Branch mediterranean pizza joint I see listed.  I’ll have to look more carefully next time I go.  I miss that baba ghanouj!

Today I had a bunch of volunteer baby garlic that I pulled from a patch in my garden.  Just single small bulbs at the end of tender green shoots.  I wanted to roast it, but heating up the oven just to roast a couple of ounces of garlic seemed wrong.  I had an eggplant, though, so I roasted it and the garlic together to make some baba ghanouj.  [Out of an excess of blogger integrity, the pictures of the garlic above and below are not the garlic used to make the baba ghanouj.  I gleaned these from my garden a day later.]

The recipe calls for four large cloves of garlic to a pound of eggplant.  I had what looked like double that amount of garlic.  About thirty tiny bulbs.  I was going to roast them all and reserve half for another use, but when they were out of the oven they smelled too good.  Into the food processor they all went.

The receipe has you roast the eggplant at 450 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes.  I’m guessing I usually stop closer to 25 minutes.  By then it is soft and smells great.  Why wait?  I’ll tell you why.  Today I left it in for the full 35 minutes and, voila, all the smokey goodness showed up.  Kind of obvious, but it escaped me until now.  I see no reason not to try as much as 45 minutes.  

Anyway, this batch is freaky good and stands up very nicely to my memory of the long ago standard-setting baba ghanouj I enjoyed in LA.  So, tons of garlic and super roasted eggplant must be the keys to magic baba ghanouj.  Do it (if you haven’t already–I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn I am the last one to appreciate these two points).

Now I need Lacey to get home and help me make this baba ghanouj disappear.

Be well.

Super Moon

Eat chili uttapam at noon/wake at 2:00 am to bid adieu to chili uttapam.  Having eaten chili uttapam for lunch on both Thursday and Saturday of this week, I am two for two proving the truth of this axiom.

This morning at 2:10 am I noticed bright moonlight streaming into our living room windows.  Super moon!  I had forgotten and would have missed it.  Glad to have seen it, because it was a doozie!  Dearest chili uttapam, you delight on the way down and wake me for special moments later!  How can I ever repay you?

Since both I and the super moon were up, I grabbed my point and shoot camera and made three pictures, each more terrible than the last.  I won’t waste the electricity to share even the best one.  Google images saves the day, though.  How long until my first reaction is not to grab a camera but to fire up the googles?  The day will come.  I still remember when my first reaction was to grab a book to answer a question, but now those days are long gone.

This NASA post is worth watching.  I was reminded not only of the perigee and apogee of an orbit, but also how little I have matured since junior high–I giggled when they referred to the super moon as “the swollen orb.”  It wasn’t just a transitory moment of immaturity.  It was sufficiently durable that I replayed the video until I located the phrase, paused the video, fired up Garage Band, captured the audio, edited out all but “the swollen orb,” and finally exported it as an mp3 file.  I was all set to add the sound file to my blog when I learned I need to buy a space upgrade to add audio files.  Ho well.  Not worth that.  Moving on.

In the category of sincerely underwhelming, for the first time in my life I won a prize playing powerball.  I played two games for Friday’s drawing and got the powerball right in one for a $2.00 payout.  Net gain $0.  I’ll consider it a good start and keep trying.

Bye!

Drinking. Eating.

Hello!  So where do you think we were Friday night?  If you said Mahar’s, you’d be right.  Atop a couple of ANTs, we pedaled there in some of the mildest weather we’ve enjoyed lately.  Short local rides with delights at the end are my favorite rides.  If you need dozens of miles to trip your trigger, be my guest, but I can be sated with a ride as short as a block.  More isn’t better, for me anyway.

Lacey had a cask conditioned Eye of the Hawk from Mendicino Brewing (brewed at Olde Saratoga Brewing up north).  Lacey didn’t know it was a strong ale (with 8.0% ABV), and she didn’t feel particularly strong after her pint.  Oops!  I had a Downtown Brown from Lost Coast.  I was feeling chipper after my pint (turns out it had only 5.0% ABV).  Check out Lost Coast’s herstory.  Had we bothered to check the alcohol contents of our two beers before we drank them, we could have switched and ended up on the same astral plane.  Next time.  Both were excellent beers, though.  I’ll put this mission in the win category.

Mahar’s without Curry House would be sad, so we did the happy thing and walked next door when our beers were no more.  Always a winner.  We’ve been regularly sharing one order of dal makhani (ordered spicy), but last night, while Lacey was in the bathroom, I slipped in an order for chana saag, too.  Oh, and onion bhaji as a warm up and roti with the meal.  We’ve long ago learned that one appetizer, one entree and one bread are just the right amount of too much, so two entrees are way too much.  Not a problem when you bring along a three tier tiffin to cart home in style all that remains.

More Indian today, but with a southern flair.  Parivar for lunch.  So good!  I had a chili uttapam.  The dal and rice pancake is little more than a vehicle to deliver searing hot chilies to my mouth and in this role it performed flawlessly.  Also learned Vimto is a fine beverage.

Lacey had a palek dosa.  A light coating of spiced spinach puree lines the whole of the dosa and nestled in the middle are wonderful mooshed up potatoes and peas.

With both dishes, the dips play a starring role.  We both got the same three–sambar, coconut chutney and hot sauce.  Get there as often as you can.  Good cheap food.  Know that the cafe is closed Mondays.

Have a good Saturday night, folks!

Warm Concrete

I haven’t been outside, but looking out the door I can guess it is generally cool and the sun is warming the patio (and Frida).

This helps me gain confidence that Spring is coming.  What a great time to write about my grandma and her gardening and cooking.  The real story is my mom asked me to write a piece for an upcoming cookbook featuring cooks from Emerald, Nebraska.  Can’t say no to her!  Here’s what I sent.  The blanks are for mom to fill in (she’s good with dates and details).

My grandma lived in Emerald, Nebraska, from ________ to _________.  I enjoyed many visits to her Emerald homestead, but grandma wasn’t living there when I went. It had been passed to her son. During my life, she lived in a tidy bungalow in Lincoln, Nebraska, in a neighborhood called the Russian Bottoms.

The Emerald homestead was a working farm with many acres dedicated to ___________ and ___________.  There was a big vegetable garden near the house.  Grandmother and her kids took care of that.  She grew _______________, and canned what the family didn’t eat during the growing season.  These are just stories to me, though, shared with me by grandmother and my mother.  We should fast forward some to my direct experience, when grandma was in the Russian Bottoms tending a big garden there.

The work would start every spring after her son tilled the soil.  The rest was all grandma.  I remember her planting tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.  There was more, but I remember these plants because some of the tomatoes were prepared into spicy catsup, then canned, and the cucumbers were prepared as sweet pickles, then canned.  Both were the best I have ever tasted.  In the end it was the tomato catsup that took the blue ribbon for me.  Spicy and complex.  Store bought catsup just tasted like sugar by comparison.  I don’t think grandma had the recipe written down.  When I asked for it, she just listed the spices from memory.  I recreated it and always have many pints in the freezer.

In honor of grandma’s methods, I’ll just list the ingredients as she listed them for me.  You can work out the quantities to your tastes.  Tomatoes (skinned and seeded–grandma used the big round tomatoes she grew, but I grow paste tomatoes and use those), onions, mustard seed, black pepper, cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar and vinegar.  I never watched grandma make it, so the rest is just how I do it.  Blend the tomatoes and onions and cook them down until half the quantity remains.  Add the spices and sugar and continue reducing until it is as thick as you want it.  Grandma’s wasn’t as thick as store bought catsup, so mine isn’t either.  Finally, add the vinegar (a little at a time until it tastes right to you) and cook for just a few minutes more.  This cans well and that’s what grandma always did. I did for years, but now I just freeze it.

Grandma also loved geraniums. As I remember it, geraniums were the only decorative plant to which she paid much attention.  She’d grow them every summer and take clippings in the fall.  The clippings would go in water until they rooted, then they’d be transplanted into soil in tin cans and placed in her window.  There they’d wait patiently to be put out again in spring.  This she’d do, along with the garden, every year, like clockwork, until she was _____.  Then it was time to sell her home in the Russian Bottoms and move to a nursing home.  Before the house sold, I took clippings from her geraniums and have kept them going using grandma’s methods to this day.  I am looking at one soaking up spring sunshine as I write this.

Grandma’s gardening and cooking is what I remember best about her.  That, and her love of hosting the family’s Sunday dinner.  Hosting was a chance to share what she had grown and to listen to her family talk.  She didn’t speak much.  She was too busy working.  Others pitched in, but she was always at it.  It was accepted that grandma wouldn’t sit with us to eat the huge and delicious meal until everyone was done.  There was a place for her at the table, but it was mostly empty.  If everyone seemed sated, and then over sated, she might make a plate for herself.  Sometimes!

I learned from her steadfast example the importance of patience, love and the joys of hosting and sharing food.  I also learned from her that listening is better than talking (you learn so much more).  I have yet to meet a person with as much love in her heart as grandma, and I’d like to think some of that came from the quiet, patient work required to make a garden flourish.  I think about her every day and miss her so very much. She was one of a kind!

Sappy, but there is no other way to think or write about my grandma.  That’s that!

Mahar’s was open on Sunday (a rare treat).  I enjoyed a cask conditioned Blue Herron Pale Ale from the Mendocino brewers up north.  Lacey, a Southern Tier Oak Unearthly IPA.  Both were real standouts.  I share what we drink mostly for our reference.  I sometimes have a hard time remembering what I enjoy.  If it is recorded here, I can find it and enjoy it again.

Time to work!  Have a productive week.

Two 2s

I love my wife!  The day started with a nice walk with Frida.  Lacey said she wanted to go to the gym in the morning.  I said it was so pretty that maybe she’d be willing to bicycle in the country with me.  No driving to the gym.  No electricity used by the work out machines.  Free vitamin D from the sun.  Togetherness.  It is kind of cold and very windy, but she said yes!  I love pedaling with my sweetie!

Lacey wanted to ride her Bridgestone XO-2.  It is her favorite go fast bicycle.  Her Panasonic road bike is probably quicker, but it isn’t as stable or comfortable and the XO-2 has easier gears.  Perfect.  I picked out my new Bridgestone RB-2.

Lacey also wanted a bagel brunch.  I had thought the same thing when I woke up, so I stuffed a cotton bag in my coat pocket and planned a country route that dumped us out by a grocery (where we could get Tofutti cream cheese) and then we’d continue home and stop by the bagel store.  

The ride in the country was hard work.  A very strong head wind the whole way.  We enjoyed it anyway.  

After the grocery, we faced a pretty long ride along a very busy street, but as luck would have it we had the strongest tailwind the whole way.  It was amazing.  We had to be going twenty-five, maybe more, with almost no effort.  I haven’t had that kind of fun in ages!

The line for bagels was out the door and moving slowly.  When I got inside the door, I grabbed a bag of day old bagels and headed to the cash registers.  That’s the ethic there.  If you don’t need the help of the sandwich makers, you get to cut to the registers.  Score!

Home safe now.  Lacey is cleaning up while I type.  Then bagel brunch!  Woo hoo!

I hope your Sunday is extra special, too.

Tamale Jag

Friends invited us to a picnic at Joralemon, so I made a batch of tamales.  I’ve made tamales three times before, each time with guidance from Veganomicon and instructions on the side of the bag of Instant Corn Masa Mix.  The first effort went well enough, as I remember it, but the next two times, yesterday included, the tamales required nearly double the time in the steamer (an hour and a half as opposed to the advertised forty-five minutes).  I’d open one at 45 minutes and it the dough would still be wet.  I’d tie it back up and try another 15 minutes and at an hour and a half they’d seem close to right.  

Both Veganomicon and the bag suggest a one to one ratio of stock to masa mix, so that is what I always did.  The dough was pretty wet (just short of pancake batter), but what did I know?  This morning, with the problem fresh in my mind,  I made another batch.  I added one and  a half cups of stock to two cups of masa mix.  The dough was drier, but still easy to work with.  Between pancake batter and cookie dough.  I ended up with twelve tamales with lovely texture after 45 minutes in the steamer.  This reminds me of the importance of adding liquids to unfamiliar batters in stages.  You can always add more if the batter seems too dry.  

My folding technique has evolved, too.  I now press a quarter cup of dough into a small tortilla-sized, pancake-thick, round in my hand.  With the grain of the corn husk running vertically, I lay the dough along the left edge, leaving a couple of inches of husk on the top, right and bottom.  I lay a stripe of filling vertically in the middle of the dough.  I roll the husk from left to right until a tube of dough is formed (the empty right part of the husk is still unrolled), fold the top and bottom edges of the husk in and then continue the roll to trap the edges.  Very tidy.

Tying the tamales was always a struggle.  I’d make ties from strips of husk.  String would be easier, but about one hundred times less cute.  Now I tie two strips together to make a double length husk strip tie and tying is now reliable and fun.  Too long, really, but the extra length is pretty and makes it easier to untie when eating time arrives.

Filling?  I sautéed chopped onion for twenty minutes on low heat to come close to caramelization (I wanted to caramelize them, but in my thirty or so years of cooking have never once managed the patience required for a good caramelization–and only just learned that can take as many as forty minutes).  Then added jalapeno, garlic and mushrooms.  Spinach, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper last.  Next time I am going to leave time for full caramelization.

The picnic was great.  Our friends are so very wonderful.  Every time we get together I count my blessings that they share their lives with us.  We played bocce, skipped rocks at the river, looked for cave openings and ate wonderful food.  Most of these folks are vegan or nearly so and most of the dishes are made vegan.  If dairy is involved, it is kept on the side.  A little thing, but it goes a long way to making us feel welcome and cared-for.  Not a golf disk was thrown, but I didn’t mind a whit.  I was having too much fun to care.

Hope you are all well.

Vegan Matzoh Pancakes!

Oy!  We are through two of five boxes of matzoh and only two days remain (during which we mean to be eating the, um, stuff).  A batch of matzoh pancakes should help.

The Complete American-Jewish Cookbook had a few recipes for matzoh pancakes, but the recipes sounded more like omelets with some matzoh thrown in.  One had 1/2 cup of matzoh meal and three eggs!  See what I mean?  Probably wonderful if you eat eggs (and define wonderful as cholesterol-laden and mean).

So I just made my ordinary recipe but used matzoh meal instead of whole wheat flour.  Worked!  Excuse the picture–my breakfast beat the natural light and sometimes I just don’t care.  

At the start of passover I wondered about baking powder and baking soda.  OK or not OK?  How have I never wondered this before?  Maybe this should became the fifth Seder question.  My initial research involved picking up a box of kosher for passover cake mix at the grocery and finding bicarbonate of soda among the ingredients.  Well that’s good news.  Pancakes without any rising agents don’t sound very fun.  Then I busted out the googles and found this.  The NYT is as close to a real rabbi as I am going to easily get.  Done!

Let’s get to it, then.

In a food processor whiz seven sheets of matzoh to make 2 cups of coarse matzoh meal.  Open the lid and add 2 tsp.  baking powder, 1 Tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. salt.  Brief whiz to mix.

Whisk together in a separate bowl 2-3/4 cups of whatevermilkTM, 2 Tbs. oil and 1 Tbs. Ener-G Egg Replacer.  Is Ener-G Egg Replacer ok for passover?  Good luck finding a rabbi with an opinion on that one!  Based on the ingredients, I’m going with yes.

Add the matzoh meal mixture to the whatevermilk mixture and stir to combine.

Let it hang out for a few minutes to come together and heat your pan to medium while you wait.

Now you need to channel your inner bricklayer skills.  This stuff isn’t like batter.  More like oatmeal.  Or loose mortar, to stick with the affliction theme.  Add some oil to your pan and then drop a half cup or so of batter in the pan.   Gently spread it around until you have a 1/4″ thick pancake like object.  Fry, flip, fry, done.  Repeat until you are out of batter.  I got six.

They are best straight out of the pan when some of the bigger chunks of matzoh are still crispy.  In this form, the pancakes have a unique (and enjoyable) character you aren’t likely to encounter anywhere else.  If you keep them warm in a 190 degree oven as you complete the batch, the cakes will steam some and the unique texture flees.  More like traditional flour pancakes, then.

That’s that.  Onward!