Category Archives: Uncategorized

In the Kitchen

7:3o am.  Made a batch of sambar and ate half a cup as breakfast part I.  I’m working my way through the six or so recipes for sambar and/or dal in my Indian cookbook.  Loving them all.

s

 

8:00 am.  Made a batch of tofu matzoh brei and ate some for breakfast part II.  After making this dish during 13 or so passovers, I am really getting it sorted.  I’ve dropped the nutritional yeast, mustard, Bragg’s aminos and all the other strange things they put in scrambled tofu back in the day.  Simpler is better.  I still give it a little yellow with turmeric (as do most hippies), but next year it’ll be annato oil (I couldn’t this time because annato oil was at this moment three and a half hours from coming into my life (see below)).  The rest is just onions, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.  Nothing else needed.  If you make one you’re proud of, I’d love to try it.

9:00 am.  Walked Frida with Lacey.  Golly I love that dog.  Golly I love Lacey.

10:00 am.  Pedaled to the Mexican grocery and the coop.  Bought really good stuff.  If you haven’t been to the Mexican grocery, you really need to go.  Their dried peppers alone are worth the trip.  I just got a big bag of chile costeña.  Hadn’t even heard of those.  How fun is that?  Really fun (for me).  Maybe this?cc

11:30 am.  Made a batch of annato oil.  Viva Vegan taught me how.  I’ll use it to color rice, empañada dough and chorizo.  Isn’t it pretty?ao

Nothing to it.  Just simmer achiote in oil for three minutes.  The achiote comes from the wall of the Mexican grocery (where you will go soon, right?).  Looks like this.  Stunning, no?a

The bike ride went great, by the way.  Big hooray.

11:35 am.  I whipped up a batch of Indian eggplant to go with the sambar and Lacey and I had a nice little lunch of sambar, eggplant, rice and paratha.  Life is good!

1:00 pm.  Friend came over for an afternoon LP listening session.  Very nice time.  He brought a light box so we could get a good look at my grandpa’s negatives.  The ones I scanned and showed here.   He is setting up a darkroom and wants to print some for me.  What a gift!  Can’t wait for that to go down.  Sneak peak:sp

4:00 pm.  Friend is gone.  Lacey is napping.  I am here (but should be outside).  Before I go, one more big bit of little news.  My Halco strainer started coming apart after a good decade of hard use.  Seems like the company is now known as Browne.  I found a reinforced version of my old strainer on Amazon.  The same fine mesh as my old one but another layer of bigger and stiffer mesh to support the whole thing.  Should last a decade, easy.  bsThat’s that.  Tomorrow I will get out into wonderful Spring weather.  Those chores aren’t going to do themselves!

Take care.

 

Something Worse

What’s worse than being hollered at for pedaling on the street?  Not being seen at all.

Last night I was pedaling three blocks to a friend’s place.  I was stopped at a red light at the end of our block.  The sensor didn’t notice me so I was waiting for a car to come up behind me or for a break in traffic.

As I waited I watched a family leaving what I imagined to be their mother’s home after an early dinner.  They got into three cars and waved goodbye.  The third car headed my way then turned left onto my street.  Rather than turn into his right lane, he cut the corner and very nearly plowed into me (into the left hand lane for oncoming traffic).

I was standing over my bike.  Could not have moved fast enough.  For a moment I was sure he saw me.  It was broad daylight!  Then it was clear he didn’t see me.  I hollered “HEY!” as he was within 10 or 15 feet.  He heard me and swerved.  Phew!

His mother was standing in the drive and heard me shout.  She was looking right at me from half a block away.  She must have seen her, I’ll guess, son swerve to avoid running me down.  She turned and walked inside.  I was still there waiting for the light.  I pedaled to the corner and pushed the cross walk button, traffic stopped, and I pedaled the last two blocks to my friend’s place where I played two reasonably strong games of Scrabble (came in second in both).

I am very used to close passes and getting hollered at.  So common that I am not really afraid.  More frustrated, usually.  It is rare that I feel seriously threatened. Last night was one of those times.  I am 100% sure that if I hadn’t yelled I would have been hit.  He was going slow.  Maybe 10 or 15 mph.  I probably would have been ok (assuming he stopped as soon as he hit me rather than continuing over me).

I am glad I was watching out.  Folks in cars often check their phones at lights.  I learned in motorcycle safety classes to sit with the bike in gear and to be looking all directions including behind.  I do that when I pedal.  My helmet mirror really helps.

I wonder what impact the near collision had on the driver?  How about his mom? Will it ever be mentioned again?  Will he be more careful in the future?

I am now, for a time anyway, more scared to do something that in theory could be a wonderful and relaxing way to move around the city.  I’ll still do it.  I’ll be even more vigilant.  But I can’t help but think there may come a time when I grow tired of assuming the risk presented by inattentive motorists.

I really believe in bicycles.  They’re good for me.  They’re good for everyone. Imagine half the cars on any street being replaced by bicycles.  Quiet.  The air smells better.  You can say hi to travelers and they’ll hear you–maybe say hi back. Every outing a little more like a Sunday morning.  Seems nice to me, anyway.

We can do this.  All it takes is that we all watch out.  As we should even if no one walked or biked.  That’s the thing–I don’t expect special treatment.  I don’t need special lanes.  I just ask that you really look when you motor.  No auto pilot.  No texting.  No drinking.  Driving is serious business.  Imagine how the mom would have felt to watch her son drive over me.  Imagine the son.  A nice dinner.  Headed home.  Then you kill someone.  Serious stuff.

Too heavy?  I hope this makes you laugh as much as it did I.

Over and out.

Local?

Do this.  I have taken this class with this instructor (Claire) and recommend it.

Just Today

I wished I lived on a commune.  That’d make it easier to step out outside and offer four of the five quarts of borsht that just sprang up in my kitchen.  I didn’t want so much, but apparently five quarts are what you get when you combine six cups of stock, three beets, a head of cabbage, an onion, two cloves of garlic and a cup of sauerkraut.  One of the dangers of cooking without a recipe.5qb

The weather has reversed course, with wind, rain and colder temperatures back for a day, so I have nothing else to report.  I hope you are well.

Happy Passover

A small seder tonight.  Lacey, I and a neighbor.  Really looking forward to it.  Moussaka.  Matzoh ball soup.  Charoset.  Horseradish.  Sweet wine.  mb

I made the soup stock and the matzoh balls this morning.  Lagusta’s vegan matzoh ball recipe has never let me down.  This afternoon I whizzed up parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper in olive oil to drizzle on top of the soup.  I just noticed chives in the front yard, so I’ll chop those up for the soup, too.

This weekend I made a mole from Viva Vegan.  It came out beautifully.  Five pints!  One is in the fridge, three in the freezer and one to a neighbor.

Also this weekend we went to New Paltz to pick up a case of Stacy’s tortillas.  I paid, put the sealed box in the trunk and didn’t look at them until we got home.  They ordered the small ones instead of the large ones.  Said so right on the box.  I should have looked.  No burritos, then, but tacos and other smaller things.  Next time.

It was great to see Lagusta and Jacob at their chocolate shop.  Caught up as much as time allowed and stocked up, too.  Chocolate toffee matzoh will help get us through passover.  Three chocolate bars are mostly gone.  Two packs of Stumptown coffee beans.  Oh!  Two flavors of aged Treeline!  Better dig into at least one of those tonight.  While we where there Jacob made us wonderful coffee in his Chemex, which we enjoyed with donuts (chocolate and coconut on one and pistachio studded white icing on the other).  What a scene they’ve put together.  Shame we only get there once a year, if.

That’s that.  Hope you have a great passover.

Why Bother

I write these for me, so please click away.  Seriously.  Find something useful or fun to read.  Before you go, though, enjoy this picture of a gentleman on a bicycle in Albany taken June 6, 1914.  Albany 06.06.1914

I understand he was pedaling amongst participants before or after a suffragettes’ parade.  I clipped this part of the image from a huge image posted online by the Albany Public Library.    The first image at that link (for now) shows a wagon maker.  They’ve made a couple of wagons for the Cataract Brewery.  What a terrible name for a beer maker (or maybe at one time cataract referred to something other than filmy eyes).  They may have been a part of this cool situation that was once in Rochester.  Just a guess.  Thanks to All Over Albany for steering me to the images.

Tortilla update.  Dean’s can’t get Stacy’s Tortillas.  One guy at the distributor says no problem, but the guy who has to do it says they can’t.  “No place to put the tortillas when they arrive from Albert’s in New Jersey.”  Huge distributor, so systems are a must.  No cubby hole for a new product means no new product.  It would just get lost.  What a shame.  If I was a salesman for Stacy’s, I’d probably have to do little more than take a guy out for a fancy lunch and then it would happen.  A cubby hole would be set up.  But I am not a salesman and I’ve nearly run out of energy for this project.  At least I know that Honest Weight wasn’t dropping the ball (but why didn’t they ever communicate this to me?).  Anyway, I’ve asked My Market in New Paltz to order a case for me.  They said they would and will call when it comes in.  Driving three hours round trip for tortillas is absurd.  Inexcusable.  I’ll stop at Lagusta’s place for chocolates while I’m there.  Let me know if you want me to pick anything up for you.  All this to assuage my guilt.  I hope I don’t decide to do this again.

Now to the therapeutic writing.  Please… be free!  [A dear friend used to give this command to his dog "Homes Lake" Mitzy to show how well "HL" could follow commands--that one anyway.]

Sunny day.  Just finished returning a library book.  The Perfect Gentleman (I recommend it to you).  I was pedaling west on Western (an important four lane East West route in my town).  One stretch is too narrow for side by side sharing (two short blocks between Allen and Manning) so I take one of the four lanes for myself.  This leaves a second lane for faster users headed my way.  Pretty good set up if everyone plays nice.  Not everyone does, so it would be a swell spot for a couple of “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs.

At a red light I heard behind me a person in a car with studded snows revving his engine.  He yelled out his window that I needed to get out of the way.  I said it was narrow here and that he could use the other lane.  He didn’t.  Next light he again says I should get out of the way.  I said it is narrow for one more block and that he should use the other lane.  He suggested I use the sidewalk.  I said I don’t want to ride on the sidewalk.  I didn’t say it, but I believe that riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous.  He said I was a bitch.  Maybe so, but his impression of an ignorant bully brought it out.  Glad I was able to keep a calm demeanor throughout.

Getting back on the road means I need to remember to not communicate with angry motorists.  Hard for me to remember, but I was doing pretty well last year. I can do it again.  Things will calm down some when the students leave for the summer.  Speeds creep up when traffic thins (itself a danger), but I seem to get hollered at less.

Balance?  I enjoyed a nice ride to the bank yesterday.  Not a single scare or interaction.  If only…

Be well!

I’m a Fool

For April!  Only one day into it, but the season dial seems to have been clicked over to Spring (and not a minute too soon).  I pedaled to the co-op (PEDALED!) and added to my cart Parmela Creamery’s Creamy Treenut Cheese.  p

I was hoping to hate it so that I could continue to buy and love only localish Treeline nut cheeses, but the Parmela offering is really wonderful.  poc

Very creamy (the addition of coconut oil and locust bean gum surely help) and the flavor is, well, closer to real cheese.  Which real cheese?  I can’t say.  Last time I was buying animal excretion cheeses years started with 19s and I was in Nebraska so my cheese vocabulary is at best underdeveloped.  I can say the Treeline is tart, while the Parmela is more delicate and a bit more complex.  In the end, I can’t complain about the outcome.  I’ll buy both.  I can’t believe I can now choose from three nut cheeses.  If only the co-op would get the aged Treeline offerings.  They look incredible.

More fake cheese?  The co-op is again stocking the Daiya plain cream cheese.  d

You may recall I tried it the first time it showed up and that I found the plain to be dry and crumbly.  So much so that I returned it.  Tried it a second time and again returned it.  Seems like the co-op pulled all the plain from the shelves and it stayed gone for months.  It is back.  It is wonderfully creamy, but…doc

…seems like they changed the recipe.  Now it is sweet.  Really sweet.  Not sour at all.   If I closed my eyes I would think I was eating the strawberry. Weird.  Genuinely surprised Daiya is missing the mark here.  They are so strong in all other areas.

Bread and Honey is now offering vegan cream cheese–Go Veggie!  I haven’t been to Bread and Honey to try it, but my in-laws had some in the fridge for us when we recently visited.  Very sweet of them, and I ate a bagel filled with the stuff (enjoyed it), but it in no way passes the spoon test.  Taste it alone and it is terrible.  Hopefully Bread and Honey mixes in their own wonderful ingredients and the result is terrific.  I’ll give it a go and report my findings.

I am still a strong supporter of the Tofutti version.  Of all the not cream cheeses I’ve tried, the Tofutti tastes the best.  I know the original has trans fats, but I only eat the stuff once a month so I don’t worry about it.  I haven’t recently had the non-hydroginated version (I don’t find it around here), but reports are generally not favorable.  Oh well.  Maybe I should just suck up the expense and spread Treeline or Parmela on my next bagel.  tb

Isa Does It (again), this time with tempeh meat balls for spaghetti.  The recipe seemed decidedly hippy, but the results were swell.  tbo

I added fennel and chopped parsley but otherwise stuck to Isa’s recipe.  Next time I’ll add crushed red pepper too.  Already looking forward to it.

Frida enjoyed her trip to the in-laws, but you can see she left a little exhausted.  fit

Seems that her typical routine (a long walk in the morning and then sleeping all day in a quiet house) is more important than ever.  I’ll do what I can to keep that up.

Hope you are well!

Small Offering

friyThe sunflower mac recipe in Isa Does It yields way too much sauce.  Isa acknowledges this in the intro and suggests uses for the remainder.  I’ll half the sauce recipe next time, but this metaphorical glass of soy milk is spilled so what to do with my extra sauce?  The sauce was great in that it was creamy and yellow but it was a little bland.  Ten years ago I would have said it lacked zestiness.  Today I know to say it lacks acidity.  Other recipes up the acid with lemon or mustard.  Isa’s second mac sauce recipe uses dry mustard but prepared mustard would be better because of the vinegar.

I was enjoying the sauce on afternoon nachos,  but I was happier when I added pickled jalapeños to the sauce.  It was the vinegar from the pickling that really made the sauce work.  I was happier still when I also added a touch of the spicy and salty vinegar from the jalapeño jar.  Heat a half cup of the augmented sauce, heat a bowl of tortilla chips and you’ll have a very nice facsimile of ball park nachos.  I’ll also add pickled jalapeños and some of the vinegar to the sauce when making mac and cheese.  Won’t that be better?  More?

Next thing I knew I was dreaming about cheese frenchees.  Haven’t heard of them?  Crunchy coated deep-fried cheese sandwiches aka HEAVEN.  I first got mine in Lincoln at King’s and later at Don & Millie’s in Omaha.  Sounds like my old English teacher Mrs. Moore may be serving them at her Amigo’s restaurants around Nebraska (does Mrs. Moore still own the chain?).  In my heart (figuratively and literally as some of the cholesterol from the cheese frenchees almost certainly remains there), though, I’ll always associate these delightful treats with King’s.  Oh how I loved ordering via the phone at the booth and the accompanying cherry up floats.  Top ten happiest experiences, easy.

There are recipes on the web from frenchee devotees.  The one that rang true for me was posted by a guy claiming to have worked at a Kings–mayo on the inside of two pieces of bread then add cheese.  Freeze.  Mayo on the outside of the bread and roll it in cracker meal.  Freeze.  Deep fry.  I’d use Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise grape seed mayo (or possibly Just Mayo from Hampton Creek Foods–how have I, until today, missed this story?) and Daiya’s swiss or provolone slices.  Only hurdle for me is the deep-frying.  I am less concerned about my health than the cost of the quantity of oil required, but the possibility of reliving a childhood favorite may be the push I need.  Also appears to be no record of an attempt at veganizing the frenchee on the web.  Fun to be first.  Hmm.  Stay tuned.

Hope you are well.

Pastes

In Buddha’s Table, Chat Mingkwan suggests a krok hin (stone mortar) be used to make the foundational pastes for Thai curries.  A heavy ancient tool I can use to make yummy food and which provides a work out?  Sold!  I lurked around eBay for a couple of days and found quite a few granite numbers, but sellers were asking  quite a lot for old ones and not much less for small new ones.  Then I found a nice collection of granite sets on ImportFood.com.  I ordered the 8″ model and it arrived yesterday.   It is a very impressive piece.kh

Weighing 18 pounds, it was expertly carved in Thailand.  The instructions directed me to give it a scrub with an abrasive pad and then make a paste from one quartered lemon (to practice, further clean it and season it), so I did.  It was fun.  I learned to start slowly (doing otherwise gave me a nice lemon juice spritz–glad to be wearing glasses).  With patience, the rind broke down, a thick paste resulted and I could pick up the pace.

If you are in the market for a granite mortar and pestle for home use, consider the 7 incher.  I am not unhappy with the 8 incher, but I am pretty sure it is larger than I will need and I can tell the weight will not be immaterial when moving it around during use, cleaning and storage.  I picked the 8 incher because it wasn’t much more expensive (how many times have I ended up with super-sized popcorn tubs for the same reason) and the description said it was for “serious chefs.”  I know I am not a serious chef, but in the privacy of home, shopping online, I was unable to resist the conceit.  Be more enlightened–get the 7 incher.

I need to use up my last third cup of massamun paste, made previously on my krok din (clay mortar with wood pestle), before I can give the krok hin a proper test.   Last night I made the second batch of massamun curry with the paste.  I went off recipe and added to the paste and coconut milk a little stock to increase the volume and thin it some.  Then I added potatoes, carrots, green beans, pineapple, peanuts, tofu, sugar, tamarind juice, light soy sauce, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick and cardamom. So good!  Lacey wants green curry next and I am happy to oblige.

Frida is still chugging.  She puked once Sunday afternoon (while we were out catching a movie (The Grand Budapest Hotel–highly recommended) and a black bean burger (The Olde English Pub & Pantry–highly recommended).  Oh the guilt for leaving her!  Scary, too, in light of her diagnosis.  She hasn’t since so we’ll attribute this one to the incredibly moldy bagel we couldn’t wrench from her mouth during her Sunday morning walk.  It is nearly impossible to take found food from her.  She bucks madly and locks her jaw like a safe.  This time she nearly pulled out of her collar while thrashing backwards toward the traffic so we gave up and let her swallow it.  With her, prevention is the only cure.  I need to be more vigilant.fiy

Most of the seedlings are up in the basement.  Pretty quick.  They’ll get 45 days inside under lights and then a couple of weeks outside in pots to harden off before they are moved to the gardens (if my patience holds and the soil warms).  This morning it was twenty degrees as Frida and I finished our walk.  Cold enough that the light breeze stung my uncovered face but Frida thought it was swell and refused to come in when we returned home.  Bless her.

I’m still missing Stacy’s Organic tortillas.  So much better than anything at Honest Weight.  I’ve given up on my special order of Stacy’s through Honest Weight.  I never got a clear answer as to why they didn’t arrive.  They’d just say “we’re still trying” and now the guy avoids eye contact with me.  This after I spoke to a guy at Albert’s New England, the regional distributor, who said they’d be happy to get them from Albert’s East in New Jersey and then forward them along if only Honest Weight would place the order.  Time to try a new tactic, so yesterday I went to Dean’s Natural Foods to see if they would place an order.  I spoke with Dean himself and he said he’d give it a go.  I think I made enough of a sales pitch that he’ll order a second case for his store (in addition to their superior taste and texture, I highlighted how well they freeze, that when unfrozen they remain perfectly pliable and that they never mold in my fridge).  I’ll let you know if he gets them in.  These tortillas are definitely worth the trip.  If Dean can’t get them, I’ll buy a case in New Paltz next time I am down there.

Even if Dean can’t get the tortillas, I am going to shop there more regularly.  I can’t give up on Honest Weight (they have so much I’ve come to feel I need), but the size and constant bustle of the new Honest Weight is off-putting.  Dean’s reminds me of the small co-op we enjoyed in Omaha (the one crushed in two months time after Wild Oats came to town) and seems to offer quite a few items not offered by Honest Weight.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Dean’s has better prices, too.  You’d think Honest Weight would use their scale to undersell a little shop, but unless you work enough hours to get their highest discount, their prices are shocking.  Stay tuned for Stacy’s at Dean’s and stop by there even sooner.

Take care and have fun.

If You Make Tamales

tcThe recipe on the mix may say to steam tamales for 45 minutes.  Or maybe one hour.  Sometimes a testmaleTM opened after an hour will seem somewhat uncooked.  Mushy.  More time?  Can a tamale be oversteamed?  Search that and you find folks steaming tamales for two hours.  Sometimes three.  One person steams them on low steam overnight.  So maybe you can’t oversteam a tamale.to

I’ve had tamales cook in 45 minutes (when no one is coming over).  I’ve had tamales take two hours (as they did yesterday, so I was glad to have started at 2:00 rather than the 4:00 I had predicted).  What gives?  I have some ideas.

First thing, a testmale opened immediately after removal from the steamer will very likely seem uncooked.  Let it cool for five minutes before opening.  That may have been my mistake yesterday and many other times.

Second, it seems like a batter with more air will cook faster.  I’ve been instructed to beat the batter until smooth and sticky, I ended up beating it for about a minute.  It seemed smooth and sticky.  Internet experts say beat it for ten minutes.  That’s seriously long, so get out your stand mixer.

Third, a test was proposed.  Make a small ball of batter.  If it floats, it has enough air.  Some people say their batter never floats.  Probably worth a try, though.

Don’t overpack the steamer.  I’ve probably done that more often that not.  I should use a taller pot.

Thicker tamales take longer to steam.  I made sixteen tamales from a recipe yielding sixteen tamales, so I’m guessing that wasn’t my problem yesterday.  Maybe has been in the past, though.

Best advice?  Make them in advance.  Maybe in the morning.  Plan on a two-hour steam, but check a testmale at one hour after a five-minute cool down.  When a testmale seems right, put the bunch in the fridge and then reheat over steam for 30 minutes, allowing time for the all important five-minute cool down.  That should do it.  Have other ideas?  Please share.

The salsa, beans, rice and guacamole, even the tamales, all came our perfectly.  I was so pleased.  Clean plates and lots of compliments.  I was right about the Makers Mark–it was the most popular.  I was right about the mescal–no one wanted it.  I was wrong about the Nugget Nectar–it was appreciated and disappeared.fw

The Scrabble tiles were not working for me.  I came in last in the first game and second to last in the second.  No matter.  The company is why I participate and that was swell.