12/30/10

Yes, of course we can do that.

Just give me notice so it'll be even better.

I had someone call up, because her friend was in the hospital for some heart thing or another. She asked if I could do something without salt for her. "Of course we can" was the answer. Why? Because I had a bit of notice to sort something out. We made her hummus, lentil pate, a couple of vegetable dishes, some noodles, brown rice, and stuff to eat with all those things. She also was able to get a few desserts, because we do have desserts without salt or sugar. No problem at all.

Another time, someone came in, who had gluten and garlic allergies. The beans are safe, but she wanted something a bit more. That meant that the lentil pate was safe. Usually. Unfortunately, because my vendor ran out of sunflower seeds, I didn't have enough pate made, because I was waiting for the sunflower seeds to arrive. What a mess! The lady thought she'd have to get just steamed vegetables (which, though delicious, aren't "special" enough for an occasion like eating out with a friend). I explained to her the situation, that I have boiled lentils, and browned onions, and everything else for the pate ready and waiting for the sunflower seeds, and would she mind it terribly if I used almonds instead? Fortunately, she didn't have a tree nut allergy, and all was right with the world.

The other day, Boss Man said that he had a customer ask for something with no fat. This means no nuts, seeds, etc. Tempeh is fine, seitan made without fat is fine, and all vegetables and fruits are fine. He ran to the kitchen, and whipped up a steamed seitan dish (made in apple juice, and lots of different spices) with some steamed veggies and sent it up. It came out so delicious, because the juice cooking down formed this beautiful sauce that just made everything perfect.

We're chefs. We enjoy a challenge. If there's a food restriction that you have, let us know, and we'll make it. In fact, we can often whip up something on the spot, if it comes down to it. However, when we have prior notice, we can truly shine, and give you lots of different options. Let us shine for you! Tell us what you need, and let us sort it out before you arrive, so that you don't have to wait on your meal. We're happy to do it.

12/28/10

i'll never trust the snow again!

picked hux up at his friends, last pm, on east 39th and the river. man was it chilly cold walking down from grand central 2 lower east 39th! hux put his ds in2 his coat pocket and off we went. hux was like a ping pong ball in the snow. he was over-joyed w the powder, its softness and chill."It feels like switzerland!" he said giddily. i couldnt get him 2 stop. i was saying 2 myself, "just let the kid enjoy..." but it only goes so far when it's freezing! yet the power in letting a child feel so free is thrilling 2 see! when we got home, he cried out in pain, horror, and more pain: " the ds slipped out of my pocket!," and he started 2 cry uncontrollably. it was 8pm, i was feeling so foul: just wanted 2 take a bath and feel sorry 4 myself. nope, out we went to search, back and forth, back and forth: in vain however! he screamed and punched the sky. he cried out: " i'll never trust the snow again....ever!" he was banging the huge snow-drifts w both hands, sinking in, wailing so loudly... but never once about how cold it was! we came home ice cold and red and warmed up in a steaming hot tub. in the morning, hux wanted one more "college try." i said;" it's like trying 2 find a needle in a haystack type-of-chance!

in the am, i was hesitating bc i really wanted 2 get 2 chow early, new ideas percolating, so much 2 do, snow storm related stuff... and i said 2 myself: "helping hux look 4 his ds gives him an assurance of certainty, unconditional love, that some things u can count on. i want him 2 be able 2 give joyfully 2 others: and he will if u show him how." so out we went. still, there were big mountains of snow, however now, they were dirty-grey and wet. yet he climbed and fell down, climbed and fell down; back and forth, back and forth: We didnt find his ds. i said: "probably shoveled away till spring." letting go and just doing it 4 him, felt liberating, and he felt better 4 trying. he also rolled a big snow ball and placed it in the freezer, and excitedly said: "this one's a keeper!" i think he's beginning 2 trust the snow again.

consume sacred chow: the notion that all beings r here, on earth, in equal measure. vow 2 find the way, whatever the circumstance, 2 less violence. we r in life 2gether, many different forms readying ourselves 4 our flight in2 the edible unknown: all! protect urself, and those u love, or u'll be sucked down in2 the nothingness: the creeks of cholera. let us use sacredchow.blogspot.com as a channel 4 plant-based thinking & cooking: seeking & learning less violence in every step we take. peace and love, love and peace...

12/23/10

You kept cooking AFTER that?

I taught a private cooking class, and had to dash out at the end to get home and cook for the husband. I told the person as such, and got the reply "I cant believe you went home and cooked more!!!!!"

Believe it, dear student of mine.

When you find something that excites and entices you, it's best if you stick to it. I found this job just two weeks after moving to the city. I'm not sure what Boss Man was thinking when he hired me, but I'm endlessly thankful that he did. I love it here. He and I can talk food for hours without getting tired of it. We explore paths formerly untested. We revel in food. Why? Because we love every minute of it.

And, when I get home, I keep cooking for me and my husband.

Cooking for me isn't a job. It's not a chore. It's not something to get past. It's my lifeblood. It keeps me going. It makes me happy. And more than that, cooking for others is connecting with those people on a very intimate level. Something that I used my hands to create is being integrated into you. It's why we at Chow treat our food with such reverence: food matters.

It's so liberating to meet people who "get it".

That's why I love it here so much. Boss Man "gets" it. When I tell him about how much cooking is a passion, he understands with all his being, and shares in my sentiments. Then he promptly makes something earth-shatteringly good (pomegranate & chocolate pie, anyone?) like it's a simple thing.

The new year is fast approaching. I implore you to step back for a minute, and ask yourself if you're doing what you truly love. If you are, let me know what it is. I'd love to hear about it! If you're not, what are you waiting for? We have such precious little time on this planet. You deserve to be doing something that makes you feel fulfilled. Get out there and do it!

Warm wishes for the holidays from the Sacred Chow family!

12/14/10

When the lights turn on

When you're a restaurant, you need to report your total credit card, cash, and tax due on said items every day. So suppose that today, in credit card sales, I made $100 total, before tips. I then made another $100 in cash, before tips. So ostensibly, (as I used to in the past, like an idiot) you'd calculate $100 + $100 = $200. 200 with the additional 8.875% tax rate for New York city comes to $217.75, right?

WRONG.

The numbers written on the credit card batch on the slips every night are the total, including tax. This is the same with the amount of money written on the bottom of the cash tickets, which is what's added together at the end of the day, and recorded on the sales report for the day. So while I know how to calculate the additional taxes very easily [(Total cost * 8.875%) + (Total Cost)], and you're set. Fairly straightforward, and easy enough to throw into Excel, so that it does all the work for me.

But what about the other way around?

And there were crickets chirping in my brain. So I tried every combination I could think of, to no avail. How did I know my numbers were wrong? I have a calculator with a "minus tax" button, that does the calculation for me. So a quick button press, and I knew I was consistently coming up with the wrong answer. I finally did an Internet search on it, and found this lovely website here:

http://www.simetric.co.uk/si_deduct_tax.htm

All of a sudden, it was like this huge lightbulb turned on in my head. I made a quick Excel formula, dragged it through the subsequent cells, and all the numbers added up! Backwards, forwards, upside-down. All of it was beautifully added to the totals, and the numbers just work. It's been a good long while since it's happened that nicely. Generally, when I'm wrangling numbers, I tend to get different answers if I don't have a perfect formula to work from. Instead, I end up getting the spread of data, from all over creation. Not a good thing when you're dealing with the tax man.

And the thing is, it could have all been solved with a quick Internet search. Why did it take so long for me to figure out the exact method that just works every time? I don't know, but I suspect that I wasn't quite ready for it yet. I've found that over time, if I'm not ready for something, it just won't come. I can try everything in my power to sort it out, but it just doesn't happen. I'll swear, I'll walk away and come back, and all those other techniques. But if it's just not the time for it, I'll still be stuck behind the wall, and unable to cross that barrier.

Today was different that way. It was a record cold day. Just by chance, before heading out for work, I did a quick check of the weather report, and saw that the temperature was below freezing, and we had a dusting of snow going down. Immediately, I threw on some tights, heavy jeans, heavy~ish shoes, t-shirt, zip up jacket, 2nd zip up jacket, and long trench coat (it keeps my legs and trunk warm). Just to be on the safe side, I packed my scarf into my bag.

I walk out, and it was the perfect set up. I was warm all the way into the subway. I got into work, and was informed that we're out of beans and hummus. Guess what? I'd boiled chickpeas /and/ beans yesterday. When things are going right, just follow the momentum, and go with it.

I attacked the financial stuff, and reached the familiar fumbling block. I decided to do an Internet search, on the off chance that someone else out there has wondered the same thing as I. And by sheer dumb luck, there it was. Now I feel like I can conquer anything.

11/30/10

i'll never trust the snow again!

picked hux up at his friends, last pm, on east 39th and the river. man was it chilly cold walking down from grand central 2 lower east 39th! hux put his ds into his coat pocket and off we went. hux was like a ping pong ball in the snow. he was over-joyed w the powder, its softness and chill."It feels like switzerland!" he said giddily. i couldnt get him 2 stop. i was saying 2 myself, "just let the kid enjoy..." but it only goes so far when it's freezing! yet the power in letting a child feel so free is thrilling 2 see! when we got home, he cried out in pain, horror and more pain: " the ds slipped out of my pocket!," and he started 2 cry uncontrollably. it was 8pm, i was feeling so foul: just wanted 2 take a bath and feel sorry 4 myself. nope, out we went to search, back and forth, back and forth: in vain however! he screamed and punched the sky. he cried out: " i'll never trust the snow again....ever!" he was banging the huge snow-drifts w both hands, sinking in, wailing so loudly... but never once about how cold it was! we came home ice cold and red and warmed up in a steaming hot tub. in the morning, hux wanted one more "college try." i said;" it's like finding a needle in a haystack type-of-chance!

in the am, i was hesitating bc i really wanted 2 get 2 chow early, new ideas percolating, so much 2 do, snow storm related stuff... and i said 2 myself: "helping him look 4 his ds gives him an assurance of certainty, unconditional love,that some things u can count on; i want him 2 be able 2 give joyfully 2 others: and he will if u show him how." so out we went. still, there were big mountains of snow, however now, they were dirty-grey and wet. yet he climbed and fell down, climbed and fell down; back and forth, back and forth: We didnt find his ds. i said: "probably shoveled away till spring." letting go and just doing it 4 him, felt liberating, and he felt better 4 trying.

consume sacred chow: the notion that all beings r here, on earth, in equal measure. vow 2 find the way, whatever the circumstance, 2 less violence. we r in life 2gether, many different forms readying ourselves 4 our flight in2 the edible unknown: all! protect urself, and those u love, or u'll be sucked down in2 the nothingness: the creeks of cholera. let us use sacredchow.blogspot.com as a channel 4 plant-based thinking & cooking: seeking & learning less violence in every step we take.

11/9/10

china-style thanksgiving seitan roast



(The above photo of the seitan served 20-25 people. The recipe below serves 2-3. Adjust accordingly.)


Vegan Recipe: Slow-Roasted Stuffed Holiday Seitan

http://livingmaxwell.com/organic-thanksgiving-ideas

If you want to have a vegan Thanksgiving, below is a recipe from Cliff Preefer, the founder and chef of Sacred Chow. As I mentioned in my video review of Sacred Chow, Cliff can make dishes like no one else. The guy is simply extraordinary. I asked Cliff to put together a Thanksgiving special for readers of livingmaxwell and this is what he came up with – a slow-roasted stuffed holiday seitan.



Seitan is the protein, or gluten, part of wheat flour. You are washing off the starch and leaving behind just the protein. If you’re using whole wheat flour, you’re going to be washing out the bran and germ as well, so it’s kind of pointless. Just use all purpose.

The starch that you wash off can be saved to thicken soups, stews, puddings, etc. Treat it just like corn starch and think of it as a pre-mixed slurry. If you’re not saving the water, throw it in the garden for compost or flush it in the toilet. It’ll clog your sink or bath tub.

For the flour, try to find hard red winter wheat flour because it has the highest protein content. It’ll give the best results with regards to the amount of seitan that you end up with. If you’d like to scale back, it works just fine. You can do any combination of bread flour and all purpose flour, as suits you. Please don’t use flour with any additions (pre-mixed flours).

10 cups unbleached white flour

3 – 3 ½ cups cold water

1 recipe stuffing (see recipe)

1 sheet fresh yuba

¼ cup yuba mix (2 TB paprika, 2 TB nutritional yeast, 1 TB garlic powder, 1 TB onion powder, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper)

Sift flour into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Add 3 cups of cold water and knead well to make a dough. You may need more or less water, and more or less flour, to make sure that you end up with a dough that’s more or less smooth. It can be a little sticky.

If you’re mixing by hand, you’ll need to knead for about 10 minutes to develop the protein/gluten. The more you knead, the more protein develops.

Pour in enough warm water to cover the dough and let rest for 5 minutes. This begins the process of washing off the starch and/or bran and germ (if using whole wheat).

Set up two large pots. One with warm water and one with a colander placed over it.

Remove dough from the resting bowl and place in a large pot with warm water. Make sure that the dough is completely covered with warm water. Think of this process as if you’re washing a t-shirt. Start kneading the dough. Grab, knead, grab, knead.

The water will begin to get white and thick. Transfer the dough to the colander set over the 2nd large pot. Once drained, place back into first pot. Again, submerge the dough with warm water. Knead, grab, knead, grab. Transfer to the colander, and drain again. You’ll need to repeat this process about five times, until the protein completely separates into wheat muscle. Yes. It looks like muscle and is totally cohesive.

At this point, you have the actual seitan itself. Place into cold water, let sit for 15 minutes. This will allow it to drain off any final bits of starch and allow the seitan to completely firm up.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place and mold plenty of alumimum foil into a roasting pan. Next, spread and pull the seitan into a rough rectangle, lift and place in pan. Try to flatten it as much as you can. Stuff with Seitan Stuffing, and roll up into a log. Cover with a sheet of fresh yuba. Wrap tightly. Truss with twine, and cover in marinade. Roast in the oven for 60 minutes, basting with extra marinade every 10 minutes. After the first 30 minutes of basting, sprinkle the roast with yuba mix each time, so that the color starts to build slowly.

Stuffing

1 cup arborio rice (or any short grain rice such as sticky rice)

2 cups water

5 dried shiitake mushrooms

4 TB vegetable oil, split into 2 TB and 2 TB

2 shallots, thinly sliced

¼ lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps cut into ½ inch pieces

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 scallions, coarsely chopped

1 – 2 Chinese sausages (see recipe), or use store bought vegan sausage. sliced ¼ inch rounds

8 oz can of water chestnuts, drained and sliced 1/8 inch thick

2 TB cooking wine or dry sherry

2 TB soy sauce

2 TSP sugar

¼ cups chopped cilantro

Place rice in water. Bring water to boil. Cover. Return to stir the rice every 5 minutes, then re-cover. Continue the process for 15 minutes. When water is completely absorbed, remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put dried shiitakes into medium bowl and cover with boiling water until softened (about 20 minutes). Chop caps into ½ inch pieces. Carefully pour soaking water into a cup and stop before you reach grit.

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a deep skillet, add the oil and shallots, and cook until translucent. Add fresh shiitakes. Stir, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add dried reconstituted chopped shiitakes. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Set aside.

Sautee the sausages in remaining 2 TB of oil, along with scallions, and cook until the sausages are lightly browned. Add water chestnuts, cook and stir until heated (about a minute). Add the mushrooms, and ¼ cup soaking liquid that you reserved, soy sauce, sugar, and bring to a boil. Add steamed rice. Stir to incorporate, stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper.

Sausage (makes 5 large sausages)

2 cups vital wheat gluten

¼ cups nutritional yeast

2 TB sticky rice flour

1 TB onion powder

2 TB fennel

1 tsp black pepper

1 TB paprika

½ tsp red chile flakes (adjust as needed)

½ TB oregano

1 TB hickory salt

1/8 teaspoon cloves

½ cup olive brine

2 TB water

¾ cups white wine

2 TB garlic, chopped

¼ cups vegetable oil

2 TB soy sauce

1 ½ TB tomato paste

Combine all the dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Mix wet into dry. Knead together until firm. If it’s too sticky and wet, add more vital wheat gluten. When combined, split into 5 large logs. Wrap in foil. Steam for 30 minutes (covered). Unwrap, and let chill.

If you have leftovers, they freeze perfectly.

Marinade

3 cups water

1 cup apple juice

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cups sesame oil

2 TB ginger

2 TB garlic

2 TB paprika

2 TB chili powder

3 TB corn starch

Combine in a blender until smooth. Use to baste seitan roast.

Serves 2-3.

————

Have a great Thanksgiving!

11/8/10

more love, less violence = the "secret"


I was at Sacred Chow just this past weekend... and it was so crowded I actually had to wait for a table! This place has really caught on... the "secret" is out and people are flocking to it now! Back when I started going in 2007, I was the only person in the place!


http://aveggiegirl.blogspot.com/2010/11/cold-days-tofu-brunches-november-8th.html

vegan tapas towers!




photo added by Nick G. in the glam white hat above.

11/7/10

(wanderlust...sacred chow!)

rantingsteve‎: Pondering lunch at Sacred Chow...

GirlieGirlArmy‎: On our way to Sacred Chow... best tempeh and kale dishes ever. And yes, all we talk about is their brunch. Typical NY'ers.
DragynAlly‎: Vegan dinner...@ Sacred Chow

cherylp3: I'm at Sacred Chow!

A brunch favorite of Monica’s and mine: Breakfast Sandwich from Sacred Chow in Manhattan’s East Village. A fluffy vegan buttermilk biscuit housing a generous tumble of tofu scramble, vegan cheese that we suspect is Daiya, and tempeh bacon. blog_scuse_me

10/25/10

Make change happen!

Sacred Chow lives, from a food/nutritional/health/earth/communication/
political point of view, 2 make sure that there is less violence, less disease, less carbon world-wide; 2 reach out 2 as many folks as possible, Sacred Chow is 100% kosher & allergen-sensitive. It boils down 2: "Sacred Chow really wants 2 change our world!" Chow is sacred: And Sacred Chow is here 4 all of us 2 come 2 the table, 2 chow down together, and partake in this sacred mission. Make change happen!

10/19/10

Sacred Chow
Vegan
Tracey Edwards
18 October 2010
Rating: 5

Sacred Chow is a lovely little bistro on 227 Sullivan Street in New York City, USA. I checked it out on a recent visit, following a recommendation on Facebook. It ticked all the boxes for me!

The selection of salads, sandwiches, tapas, desserts and drinks was vast. I almost couldn’t decide what to try.

In the end, I plumped for Mama’s Soy Meatball sandwich. It was absolutely yummy. I washed it down with a Celery Beet Juice (fresh squeezed). Then…I just had to have the Brownie Sundae, brownie topped with hot fudge sauce, soy ice cream and chocolate sprinkles. It was all beautiful!

The best thing about Sacred Chow are their vegan and eco credentials. They provide all organic, vegan, Kosher, and ethically produced foods. They gather their ingredients locally. It just has a lovely chilled out vibe, I adored the place.

http://www.onekind.org/live_onekind/eating/eating_out_reviews/

10/5/10

Russell Simmons & Simone Reyes like their Chow Sacred!

Russell Simmons has gone from founding a hip hop music label to creating an urban clothing line to now a reality TV show featuring the ins and outs of his daily life.

Running Russell Simmons premiers November 2nd on the Oxygen channel and chronicles Russell’s life and his staff, including one of his closest assistants Simone Reyes.

Reyes, like Russell, is a vegan and animal rights activist who’s used her publicity to draw attention to various causes, whether that’d be Tweeting about the delicious meal of tempeh hash, vegan frittata, soy buttermilk biscuits and tofu scramble from Sacred Chow restaurant to getting the message out about lost animals and yes, commenting on Lady Gaga’s meat outfit. Read what Reyes had to say about it below, and see a sneak premier of Running Russell Simmons at: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid82588784001?bctid=615494214001.

From Global Grind (On Lady Gaga):

“IF you are talking about rights you must address the rights of ALL LIVING BEINGS- all who suffer. Meat= Suffering. Period. So if you are going to make a statement about not wanting to be treated like “piece of meat” then don’t disregard the plight of the animals that you have draped around your body.”

“Those were animals who had a family, a yearning for a life of peace, a natural instinct to raise her young, a desire to feel sunshine on her face and a plea to not be tortured and a trembling body terrified of being killed – all so that you can have a heart attack on a plate for dinner.

http://vegetarianstar.com/category/reality-tv/

Spicy Veg Pickles

Dear brilliant folks at Sacred Chow ~

I absolutely adore your restaurant and in particular the pickled veggies.

I searched high and low online for a recipe similar to the one I'd expect you make, but was unsuccessful.

Might you be willing to share the recipe?

I promise I'll only cook it and eat it and give credit to Sacred Chow whenever friends ask about the delicious dish, and will never post it online or anything like that...

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks,

Your loyal and devoted customer,
Tzivya


Hi Tzivya,

Thanks for the kind words. Flattery will get you everywhere. I'll post the recipe to our blog as well, so you can share it with your friends who want to know how you made it.

6 Cups Water
1 1/2 Cups Vinegar
1/4 cup Salt
2 TB Garlic, Chopped
3/4 Cups Sugar
2 Jalapeno chiles, sliced

That's the brine. What you do is get it on the stove, and let it come to a full, rushing boil, and make sure that all the sugar and salt is completely dissolved. Then, turn off the heat, and let it chill in the fridge overnight, until it's cold. This is what ensures that you don't cook the vegetables going into the pickling brine. Do not, under any circumstances, try to add the veg when the brine is hot. This will only result in tears.

Then, you can use any vegetable you have handy: radish, cauliflower, bell pepper, cucumber, green tomato, or any others that your imagination can come up with. If you want to, you can also add 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and a 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds, but that's not strictly required. We don't do all that, and the pickles are still delicious, because you can taste the flavour of the vegetable without the brine overpowering it.

Let the pickles sit in the cold brine for at least 3 days (if you can resist). If you absolutely must have a taste, wait for 24 hours, and then give it a shot. Of course, if you prefer a less spicy version, feel free to cut back on the chiles, remove the seeds, or omit them entirely.

The recipe scales up and down beautifully, so feel free to cut it in half, or double it.

Hope you enjoy it. If you do end up making a batch, please take a picture, and send it along! We'd love to show it to others.

10/4/10

Baked Potato Soup

It's a cold day (out of nowhere), and we're out of soup. I had baked off some potatoes for something else, and had a few leftover. Hmm. Baked potato soup it is!

4 medium sized Idaho Russet Burbank Potatoes, baked
1 medium onion, diced finely
1 TB oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, whatever)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 TB coconut milk
4 - 6 cups of water (just enough to cover the potatoes)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Start in a pot with the onions and oil. When the onions are just cooked through, add the baked potato. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes in the pot, and toss the mashed potatoes with the onions and oil. Pour in the coconut milk, curry powder, and just enough water to cover the potatoes. (Alternately, you could dice up the baked potatoes, and you won't have to bother with a potato masher.) Let the water come up to a full rolling boil, and drop it down to a simmer. Let it cook for 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are really really tender. Turn off the heat, and blend it down to a smooth puree with a stick blender.

Sprinkle on salt and black pepper to your taste (I like a lot of pepper and a good hit of salt).

For whatever reason, I'm eating a bowl full right now, and it's warming me from my toes to the top of my head. Something about a bowl of piping hot soup feels like a warm fuzzy flannel blanket when it's cold out. And since this is a smooth one, I can easily pop it into a to-go coffee containers, and drink it, and feel it energising me from the inside.

And the cool thing is that it's such a simple (yet tasty) recipe.

If you wanted, you could also stir in some nutritional yeast and give it a different dimension. If you had any thyme or rosemary, it would totally bring it up by leaps and bounds. And, think of the other possibilities: it serves as an excellent base for other vegetables. That way, you can have a creamy vegetable soup without all the calories of throwing in loads and loads of cream.

Like, if you steamed off some broccoli, and pureed it with the soup, you'd have a baked potato with broccoli soup (which, come to think of it, sounds pretty awesome. I'll be back in a few minutes.), which you can garnish with a bit of a broccoli floret. A bit of chopped sundried tomato, and you'll have little tangy, tart little bursts going off. A touch of red chile, and you'll be warmed up way faster. Roasted red peppers would be great for a creamy red pepper soup.

The possibilities are endless, and easy to execute.

9/30/10

Hiding

He doesn't hide anymore. He used to. But not since emerging from that depression.

It was about three years ago when I started working here, and I didn't notice anything off until about a couple of months of working with him in the Office. A vendor would drop in for a visit, and he'd send me in his stead. Customers would come in, asking a question about a specific dish, and he'd send me, or just tell the waitperson the answer.

Constantly hiding, cringing away from outside contact. It was a scary time. The change didn't really hit home until yesterday, when a customer recognised us both, and waved hello. Ordinarily, he'd wave back, and beat a hasty retreat to the basement. Yesterday, he stopped, and chatted with her for a few minutes, and then and only then, came back to the Office.

The other day, I was making a soup or stew or something or another, and the accounting people were on the phone, responding to an email I'd sent. Again, in the past, he'd have me answer the call, talk to them, and then tell him what they told me. Then, he'd think it over, come up with new questions, and have me start the whole process from the start. I said, "Just take the call, please. This is going to burn if I walk away." He did, and about half an hour later, he relayed what they'd talked about. Thank goodness he did take that call, because he brought up so many more points than I'd have known to ask, and had a very productive time of it.

Either way, it's like he's emerged from his cocoon of self-imposed exile, and it's very nice to see. Because now that he's not hiding anymore, he's also reaching out to people who drive him forward. He reconnected with an old customer, Elke, who was the force behind the repainting project. She's such a dynamic person. In a couple of hours, she can manage the job of three people.

And because he's now reaching out to more people, he's also searching, exploring, and finding all sorts of new and delicious foods to make. We've been stretching our creative boundaries, and it shows. Gone are the staid, the obvious, and the tried-and-true. He managed to create a gluten free, sugar free, soy free burger sandwich. I don't even know where he got the idea, but there it was, and it flew off the shelves. He made a gluten free quiche. And we don't have all those fancy flours (sorghum, or millet, or quinoa) and binders (xanthan gum) lying around. And yet it was divinely delicious.

Now that he's reaching out, others are reaching in, and the combination is wonderful for all of us.

9/23/10

Gluten Free Quiche

Yes, we managed it. I kvetched and I complained, and I badgered relentlessly.

"We keep doing Entree specials with gluten. It's not right!" With all the hundreds of gluten free recipes that man uses on a regular basis, it made absolutely no sense why a simple quiche crust should cripple his creativity. "OK, let me check the Google." He checks the google. Xanthan gum. Something about millet flour. What the heck is sorghum?

"Just make something up! You created a gluten free brownie. A gluten free truffle cake. Go pull something from your imagination. I know you can do this."

He grew thoughtful. "If I use that tart pan, and get some cornmeal ..."

"Yes! Use the tart pan. Get the cornmeal."

As we speak, said gluten free quiche is merrily baking away in the oven. There is absolutely no reason to think that you can't do something until you actually try. Then, if you fail, you analyse why you failed, and try again. Then once you succeed, you begin to fine-tune, and perfect. Once it's perfect, you make sure you can replicate your results, consistently. Then you try something new, and more exciting.

And never say "I can't."

Vegan Quiche

Vegan quiche at sacred chow.. This was incredible.

9/22/10

Never say you can't do something

He's not one to lecture. That's not his style. He prefers to remind gently, and let you do the math yourself. "Remeber when we first started out, Dino? How difficult it was, and being stretched in a hundred different directions? I'd ask you if you could do something, and you'd say 'I don't think I can do that'." I do. This morning was a prime example.

He'd made this list of products to give this guy who's finding us new wholesale accounts. He wanted me to reorder the list. I was whining, because the list wasn't automatically numbered, as would be the norm, but manually numbered. This makes it a pain in the behind to make any such thing happen. Also, Word has that charming habit of randomly flinging your text in random directions when you so much as sneeze at it.

I pouted, I whined, and I made it happen.

Funny how that works.

He's never let me think there's something I can't do. If I claim lack of expertise in the area, he tells me to go /acquire/ it. "Can't __________" is simply not an option. Not when there's so very much that needs to get done. This isn't denial of physical constraints. He never expects me to push myself to beyond what I can physically do in the time alloted. This is more about limitations I place on myself, for whatever reason.

Sure, it'd be easier to give things up as a lost cause, and just take it as it comes. But then, as I've told Preefer countless times, "What's the point of working at something if it's easy? Anything worthwhile takes effort, and time, and perfection." So there I was, using the auto-number feature, removing extraneous spaces, and sorting things out in the manner requested.

I guess I really can do it.

9/19/10

Regrets

Decisions.

Boss man tends to agonise over them. He asks for the opinions of all the people he knows, then does nothing. Then he goes through a second, third, fourth, and thirtieth round. Then he still does nothing. Finally he'll be backed into a corner, throw up his hands, and do what he wanted to do in the first place. Before he has to let someone working at Chow know that it's just not working out, he gives them like fifty "last time" warnings. He'll put himself out, so that the customer isn't getting crap, while that person continues to deteriorate.

Then, looking back, he has no regrets. He might have doubts, but definitely not regrets.

I, on the other hand, tend to make snap decisions. I sat bolt upright in bed one night, while living in Florida, and said, "We're moving to New York." A month later, we did. If I've got it into my fool head that I want to do something, I go and do it. In the end, it works out, but in the long run, there are unforseen consequences to those actions that I have to face for not thinking things through enough.

Looking back, I have no regrets. I have annoyance at the consequences, but definitely not regrets.

What's the major difference between the two of us?

I have no responsibilities to others. He does. Between his son (huge huge monumental responsibility), his family, his business, the workers in his business, and himself (notice how I list him last? That's how parents think.), he's got a world of responsibility on his shoulders. I, on the other hand, am responsible for the well-being of myself and my husband (again, notice the order). Sure, I'll see to it that my husband is fed first, and I eat only when he's had his fill. Sure, I'll stay late at the office, until the work is done. I don't, however, lose sleep over whether or not my son is learning all he needs to learn at school. Whether my business is going to fly or flop. Whether I'll finally be able to take a pay cheque after all these years.

Boss Man is strong and confident, but when you've got all these lives that you're responsible for, how else can you behave, but to be cautious? I sometimes lose patience over my perception that Boss Man isn't making snap decisions fast enough, but if I pull back and look at the bigger picture, I realise that it's actually because he's thoughtful, and careful. When you've got a kid to raise, and people to pay, and everyone to take care of, suddenly the snap decisions turn into more like slow, plodding ones. If you didn't devote that much time and care to it, people's lives are at stake.

I'm reminded of my mother, who does the same thing. To make a decision, she takes a very long time. She'll ask everyone for their input, and just sit and think on it for a few weeks. When she's formulated a plan, she'll put it into action. Then, when all the pieces have fallen into place, she'll act decisively and quickly.

And looking back, none of us have had any regrets.

9/16/10

Catching up

Tomorrow, I'll be sending a stack of documents over to our new accountant. They work as a team, and keep everything electronically organised, and do /everything/ for us. And, they're happy to accept the documents via email, fax, or regular mail, or they'll send someone to pick up the stuff monthly, weekly, daily, what have you. In other words, slowly but surely, we're starting to get these things cleared up.

What does that mean? We can finally start drawing up a budget with which to repaint the restaurant, spruce it up a bit, and make it a comfortable place to come with large groups, small groups, or alone. And it only took three years.

I started working here in 2007. Things were pretty shaky. The books were messy, the menus were hideous (does anyone remember those awful spiral bound things? ew.), the website was an atrocity, and there was no system for getting things done. I'd come in to have food (before I worked here), and they'd be out of whatever it is I was wanting the most at that moment (generally, ginger soba noodles, soup, and a sinner bar to round things out). The service was okay, but not great. Food would take a fair bit of time to come up even when it wasn't crowded.

When I did fall into a manegerial role, I started with the easiest thing first: those menus. Once that was sorted, then I attacked the website. Then, I started in on making a catering menu. Piece by painful piece, boss man and I made things happen in such a manner that the kitchen is tight, service is outstanding, and we keep on each others case when we're slacking.

A prime example is when we're creating the daily specials. Preefer's so used to it by now. "Hey, how 'bout we do that seitan sausage." It's gotten to where he says it for me, "But that has gluuuuuuuuten!" Or when he's making dessert? "Can we make that sugar free and gluten free?" Or when it comes to soup, "Does it /really/ need that soy in there?" Why? Because we push each other to do the best that we can do, the most exciting food that we can produce, while still keeping an eye on labour, costing, portion control, the whole nine.

And now we're able to do that with our books too. It's a nice feeling.

9/14/10

Eggless Tofu Salad, Ariix Style

My friend Joanne from Canada makes this eggless egg salad that's stellar. She graciously agreed to share it. The reason I bring it up is because I whipped up a quick batch today, because I was hungry, and nothing looked good (you know those days). I was starting to need something protein filled, because my energy was flagging a bit, and my tummy was rumbling a bit. The soup wasn't completed yet, and I /really/ wasn't in the mood for firm tofu (which is how the grilled tofu is, since it's frozen and thawed). It was just one of those days.

From memory, I whipped up a quick batch. Of course, I used our own Soy Milk Mayo for it, because I'm not trying to go spend $5 on a jar of the commercial vegan mayo. For this particular batch, I totally forgot the dijon mustard, which would have made it perfection. I also skipped the tamari, because I couldn't find any. :P I just added salt instead. I also added some chopped New York Half Sour Pickles. Because everything is better with half sours.

1 lb firm tofu, crumbled
1-2 rib(s) celery, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced, or 2-4 tbsp finely chopped onion
1/2 cup Vegan mayonnaise (or to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
black pepper and salt to taste

Mix it all together and put in the fridge for a few hours to let
the flavours blend. Serve in sandwiches, or on a bed of lettuce,
etc.

9/13/10

nature.

flowers bloom,
petals fall.
what kinds of things happen,
2 these flowers?
they can grow high,
or die too soon, sadly.
birds eat their seeds,
so maybe flowers will grow high.
9/13/2010 huxley preefer, 3rd grade.

9/11: and 9/14, 9/16, 9/17, 9/20.

Collective Gasp.

On 6th Ave and Waverly, down they tumbled,
together we watched the towers of mighty, how small
we were next their grandeur one moment,
how small we are.
Humbled together, crushed - a pancake of hatred,
not sweet.
No doubt, we are in this together;
we are all, sons with knives.
9/14/2001 nyc.
cp


The Devil’s Cigar.


Thunderous rivers of billowing smoke,
alone with the night, my throat and I choke.
I wonder, I wonder and really I pray,
I sit and I ponder, away and away -
a child, a father, a mother, a land, wherever i go,
it’s Destiny’s plan. A decision, a way, of how not to be:
I’ll travel the road, my own history.
The Lesson before me is simple and clear,
kindness I honor, and all I revere.
9/16/2001, nyc
cp

Sound & Sight.


To everyone, everywhere, N.Y.C.: BIG, LOUD!
It's quiet now: church bells & sirens;
the police officers and firemen: NOT THE SAME.
It's a small town with ghost streets,
At the liquor store on 6th ave, u can hear their "OPEN" neon sign buzzing.
After 10PM, at Spring and Houston, Mister Softee is serving a large crowd:
transfixed on the new amusement park.
9/17/2001, nyc.
cp

Acrid Rain.


i want them to be found,
uncovered with cheer,
i see them and hear them,
3,000 clear. they’re inside a big box
of metal I’m sure, protected
and waiting, extremely secure .

a blue day so quiet with birds
in the sky, folks walk like a zombies
with frankenstein eyes. i stop and i tremble with
others that pray, our teardrops are rivers
near pictures they lay.

it’s gloomy and wet, unlike yesterday,
the smoke that’s been
rising is hidden away.

a new moment i cherish, a game that i play,
i say over and over, they’re not far away.
they’re inside this big box, sealed tight and quite safe,
i know it and feel it, but then i awake.
a smell that is drifting, a seared odor from then,
it’s september 11th all over again.
September 20, 2001, nyc.
cp

sweet reveries bout the chow.

09:15 am
9/13/10

Dinner with Barbara at Sacred Chow. I just love eating there. The conversation was also awesome, as always.

Being vegan. I don't remember ever being as excited about food when I was eating animals.

Seeing the lights from ground zero on my way home from the subway. Not necessarily a happy reminder, but something about affirming even the most horrific events makes me happy that I am alive and fell lucky to be walking on this earth.

http://barkis.livejournal.com/


Posted on 9/11

The six things I could never do without

- Female beauty
- Old Hook Farm (where I work and get my groceries)
- Visual Arts (what keeps me balanced on the edge of sanity)
- Peking House (Cold noodles w/peanut-sesame sauce)
- Hayao Miyazaki (and the rest of Studio Ghibli)
- Sacred Chow ( and other veg restaurants in NYC)
- And, apparently, parentheses.

http://www.okcupid.com/profile/BillyRogues/


Friday the 10th of September 2010 at 6:51 PM

Sitting inside Sacred Chow awaiting my power bowl. They do awesome food and it’s just round the corner from Generation Records & Washington Square Park.

http://www.lomoemulsion.com/post/1097981658/photo-number-eighty-nine-sitting-inside-sacred

9/2/10

I listed about a dozen of the restaurants that I’d been to in my previous post, but it’s worth noting that Buddha Bodai, Peacefood Cafe, and Sacred Chow aren’t just places I’ve been to once or twice. I probably have gone to those three restaurants more than any other in New York City, and I highly recommend each of them.

http://jcarrot.org/new-web-site-hosts-updated-list-veg-friendly-kosher-restaurants-nyc-area
Another great lunch I had was at Sacred Chow. I had been there for brunch many, many times, but never for lunch. I have always heard good things about their soy meatball hero, so that's what I ordered!



It was really good and tasted very authentic (Italian). It was very filling too, I couldn't finish it all!

http://aveggiegirl.blogspot.com/
Best in Manhattan

The best Manhattan Organic Restaurants.

1.Cafe Blossom
2.Gustorganics
3.Pure Food and Wine
4.'wichcraft
5.Bread Tribeca
6.Mangia Organics
7.Sacred Chow
8.'wichcraft
9.One Lucky Duck
10.Rhong-Tiam

8/31/10

7 servings.

I was in the office, as you do, and shuffling around numbers. "Huh? What does '1 bucket of soup, broken and discarded'," even mean? Upon further investigation, it would mean that one of the service buckets, inside which soup is stored, was dropped by accident (everyone was OK; the service buckets are plastic), and the bucket broke, meaning that the soup and the bucket had to be thrown out.

Now we're getting somewhere. Right, but what do those cost? Boss Man shrugged. I silently cursed as I stalked off to the office to get to the bottom of this. I calculated the rough liquid capacity of the soup mug (12 oz~ish), and the rough size of the bucket (3 quarts?), and went about converting the one to the other and dividing across, and looking at the final score.

Then I cursed aloud, balled up the paper, and flung it across the room at the wall. 8 servings per bucket? That made no sense. So I started up again. Maybe the buckets are 2 quarts. Yeah, that's it, it's 2. Then I checked my math, and the cost of the soup. If that indeed was how much soup I'm getting for that soup recipe, we're not charging nearly enough. This makes no sense! I balled up a second sheet of paper, and stewed for a minute.

Wait a minute.

Excitedly, I ran out into the plating area, grabbed a soup mug, grabbed an empty service bucket (it needed washing out anyway), and filled it with water. Then, counting down, I started to empty the bucket, one mug at a time.

7.

Sometimes, it takes an intelligent person a frustratingly long time to find the same answer that you could have figured out in 10 seconds. I cross-checked the math with the pricing, and the little lightbulbs went off in my head. Yes. Everything fit neatly, and easily. Also, now I had a quick way to assess whether or not I'll need more of a particular thing. If I've only got 1 1/2 buckets of soup left, I'd better get into the kitchen and whip up another one. If it's lunch rush and I've only got 1 1/2 buckets of soup left, then I'd better crank the stove, crank the oven, and /run/.

Why is this so exciting to me? Because now I /know/. A little thrill of triumph crossed my face as I completed the maths problem the easy way, made my notations, and moved to the next set of hurdles to jump, with its own set of numbers to rescue from the clutches of "I don't know."

All in a day's work.

8/25/10

Mashed Potatoes


Cliff's been in a bit of a funk the past few months (years?), and while he still would come up with fiendishly clever dishes, it was interspersed with days where he'd be too sapped to do much except stare off into space and predict doom. I could tell he was out of his funk, because he proposed that we make a dinner special that could quite easily qualify as a feast, as pictured above. What is it?

It's a meatloaf, with lots of shiitake mushroom gravy, oven roasted garden peas, and creamy mashed potatoes. Also? It's 100% gluten free. We adore our gluten free folk, and try our hardest to make specials free of the wicked 5: wheat, spelt, barley, rye, or oats.

The peas were too easy to think about. Once shelled, they're tossed in a bit of oil, salt, and garlic powder, and then roasted in the oven at 350 F for about 25 minutes. The meatloaf and the gravy are both our own creations (Cliff makes meatloaf, I make gravy) and are a fairly tightly guarded secret. Also, they involve a ton of ingredients, which I don't fancy having to type out right now.

But the mashed potatoes? Those I will share with you freely. Warning: they're rich as all get-out, and you'll find yourself going into the fridge after everyone has gone to bed to sneak a few more spoonfuls. Trust me, I've watched it happen!

If you use Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes, you'll want to peel them. If you use a thin-skinned waxy potato, like red bliss or yukon gold, you can keep the skin on.

5 lbs potatoes, whole
6 cups coconut milk (that's about 3 cans of the stuff)
1 1/2 TB salt
1/2 tsp black pepper (fresh ground is best)
Water, for boiling

Boil the potatoes in gently bubbling water. You don't want them to get waterlogged, so make sure the heat on the stove is medium to medium low. You can use high heat to bring the water to a boil, but as soon as you see bubbles rapidly breaking the surface, ease on back the heat, and let them gently cook.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them well. Dump the potatoes into the pot again. Gently mash them up with a potato masher, wooden spoon, whatever. Pour in the coconut milk, salt, and pepper. Stir it around until it's completely mixed in. You see, because you're working with hot potatoes, you don't have to bother to heat up the coconut.

And that's it.

It shocked me how simple it was. I made sure to get every last drop out of the pot, because this is precious stuff we're talking about here. You can eat them right there when you're done stirring in the coconut milk and salt and pepper.

Variations include but are not limited to, adding roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, sweet corn, green peas, or anythign else you can think of.

8/9/10

Grain

Summer Quinoa with Spring Peas and Lemon
(gf, ns, sf)

Carrot Risotto (gf, ns, sf)

Hummus (gf, ns, sf)

Creamy Tahini

Protein:

Asian Pepper-steak Tacos

Vegetable

Roasted Curried Cauliflower and Carrot

Raw Brazilian Salad (gf, ns, sf, raw): A lively mix of celeriac, green peppers, apples, mango carrots, tomatoes, lemon juice, cilantro, scallions, ginger, spices, flax seeds, ground almonds, and extra virgin olive oil.

Beans &Rice (gf, ns, sf)

Mexican Black Beans w/yucca & cumin

Next Bean: English Navy Beans w/Potato

(All bean specials have no: garlic, onions, pepper, and are sf, ns, gf)

Soups

Chilled Cucumber-Dill (gf, ns, sf): coconut milk forms the base for this creamy soup.

Moroccan Tagine: French Lentils, Great Northern beans, organic soy protein chunks, roma tomatoes, onions, celery, parsley, cinnamon, lemon & orange juice, coriander, turmeric, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper. Spicy (but not hot spicy), and fragrant and filling.

8/6/10

Daily Specials

Grain

Steamed Carrot & Saffron Risotto (gf, ns, sf)

Hummus (gf, ns, sf)

Lemon Tahini

Next: Almond Cumin (try with apple or cucumber)

Protein:

Baked Tofu in pan-seared Tomato Dill Cream Sauce, with Brown Rice & Broccoli: $14.75

Vegetable

Roasted Fennel & Roma Tomatoes w Eggplant Croutons. The veg's vegetables all roasted separately in extra virgin olive oil. Sliced fennel: fennel seed, salt, pepper, garlic; halved romas: thyme, oregano, salt, pepper; cubed eggplant w nutritional yeast, cornmeal, onion powder, salt, pepper.

Beans &Rice (gf, ns, sf)

Mexican Black Beans w/yucca & cumin

(All bean specials have no: garlic, onions, pepper, and are sf, ns, gf)

Soups

Chilled Avocado Mango (gf, ns, sf)

Chilled Lebanese Cucumber Tahini (gf, ns, sf)

Moroccan Tagine: French Lentils, Great Northern beans, organic soy protein chunks, roma tomatoes, onions, celery, parsley, cinnamon, lemon & orange juice, coriander, turmeric, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper. Spicy (but not hot spicy), and fragrant and filling.

7/15/10

Dino's Mac & Cheese

I mostly eyeball it, but I can share the rough outline of how I put it together, because people have asked, and I don't really mind sharing. Some of the amounts are approximated, but there you are.

1 lb pasta (I like the large, fat, ziti noodles, but elbow macaroni works too)
1/4 cup flour
3 TB oil
2 cups coconut milk thinned with 2 cups water
1/2 cup water, reserved
1 TB miso paste (sweet white miso)
1 TB dijon mustard
1 TB nutritional yeast
2 tsp tahini
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
Breadcrumbs, tossed in oil

Set a pot of water on the boil, and cover the lid. It'll boil faster this way. You'll want about 1/2 gallon of water per pound of pasta, so that the noodles don't stick together. While the water comes to a boil, we'll make the sauce.

Start off with a roux (fat + flour, over heat). Over medium high heat, set down a large skillet (larger than you think you’ll need). Add the 3 TB of oil, and ¼ cup of flour. Whisk the two over heat, until the flour smells slightly nutty, and the oil and flour are bubbling slightly. When you’ve reached this light light blond stage (called a blond roux), pour in your room temperature water and coconut milk. Many recipes say to have your liquid hot, but I don’t care to mess up another pan. So nuts to them.

When the sauce (now a b├ęchamel) comes up to a boil, drop down the heat to low (as low as it’ll go), before adding the next set of ingredients. Add the miso, mustard, nutritional yeast, tahini, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika, salt, and pepper, and whisk vigorously, until all the ingredients are in a smooth creamy sauce. If it’s thickening up too much, add a few tablespoons of water from the reserved water. I often find that I do need to add water, but your mileage may vary.

Once the water has come up to a full rushing boil, dump in your pasta, and generously salt the water. I’ve been told that it should be salty, like the sea. I grew up in Florida, near the sea, and I know what that means. For those of us who have never been in the ocean, think of it to be as salty as your tears of disappointment at never having been to the sea. This is so that the pasta gets good and salty early on.

Once you have the pasta in the pot, slam on the pot’s lid, so that the water comes up to the boil faster. The sooner your water comes to the boil, the easier it is to prevent it from sticking to itself. As soon as you hear the water in the pasta put bubbling away, and making a boiling noise (it sounds like when you blow bubbles in your juice in the morning to annoy your sister), remove the lid to prevent the pasta from overboiling and making a mess on your stove. Set the timer for 7 minutes. Yes, this means that the pasta will be under-done, but that’s the point. Stick with me.

Now that your pasta is merrily bubbling away in its hot bath, the sauce has had a chance to simmer over low heat for a few minutes. See what we did there? Rather than fussing at the sauce, we let it just relax, and the flavours combine properly. This is important. At this point, you may taste the sauce (but just a little—you want to save some for your pasta, right?) for seasoning. If you feel like it could use a bit more salt, go ahead and add it. If you feel like it has too much salt, panic. No, don’t panic. Just add a bit of sugar until the salt seems to be neutralised. Whisk, whisk, whisk. Right then. Once it’s seasoned to your liking, turn off the heat under the sauce, put on the lid, and let it chill out while your pasta finishes cooking.

Generally, by the time I’ve finished fiddling around with the sauce’s flavours, the pasta would have finished cooking. Drain the pasta once the timer beeps, and put it into casserole dishes. Why? Because this way, the pasta pot is only dirty with water, which is easily cleaned, versus being dirty with sauce too. This way, you can also gauge how many casserole dishes you need without making a big huge mess. My pasta pot’s opening is much narrower than the top of the casserole dish. I make less of a mess when I transfer from colander to casserole dish.

Make sure that the casserole dish is only filled up ¾ of the way. Now pour the sauce over the pasta in the pot. If you do end up having to split the pasta up into two or three dishes, it will have been fairly easy to do if you did it when the pasta is unsauced. Now, toss the pasta in the casserole dish until it’s combined with the sauce. If you have extra sauce, this is very good. Dump that over the pasta in the dish too. It won’t hurt anything.

Finally, sprinkle the tops liberally with breadcrumbs that you have tossed with oil. This is not an optional step. The crispy breadcrumb crust makes it all the more worthwhile. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, run down to the bodega and grab a few packets of soda crackers, and crush them with a rolling pin (while they’re still in the package). That’ll do the same thing.

Bake the casserole dishes (covered for the 1st 15 minutes, then uncovered) at 350°F (180°C) for 20 minutes. If the breadcrumbs on top aren’t browned to your liking, slide the casserole under the broiler for 30 or so seconds. Serve in generous slices, with a side salad of something healthy, so that everyone can pretend that they’re not eating pure indulgence on a plate. Enjoy!

7/12/10

Chips & Salsa a no go.

It was a couple years back, but I recall Mini Preefer requesting (tortilla) chips and salsa, which would have been quite a lovely treat to have at the restaurant. Heck, we could even do our own cheese sauces, guacamole, and hundreds of other lovely garnishes (cilantro, black beans, olives, chopped onions, scallions, coconut creme fraiche [which is like a sour cream], diced tomato), hot sauce, and all kinds of things that would make it a pretty smashing dish. Unfortunately, I hit a snag.

Tortilla chips are fried.

D'oh!

A long time back, Boss Man made the committment to ensure that the food at the restaurant be healthy, and low carbon, which meant automatically that deep fried was not the way to go. Not only is it unhealthy overall, it's also fairly high carbon. The oil needs to come up to a fairly high temperature for it to be effective, and you tend to use a fair bit of the stuff.

So I tried the baked tortilla chips stuff. Gag. That did not go over well. It tasted like cardboard, and cost a fortune. No thanks! Is there anything out there that's close enough to corn tortilla chips, but doesn't taste like paper?

7/9/10

What to do with fennel

Fennel, both the seed and the bulbs, tend to have a licorice-y taste. If used alone, it can be a little full on, and overpower whatever it is you're making. Instead of letting fennel fly solo, I tend to use it in conjunction with its best friend: cumin. Both fennel and cumin have positive effects on digestion, and both flavours complement each other nicely. The smoky cumin adds a lovely counterpoint to the brash anise-y fennel. When eaten together, the combination is lovely, especially when combined with the bulbs of fennel plants.

I made a fennel bisque (with fennel bulbs, a bit of onion, potatoes, yucca, and fennel seeds and cumin seeds), cooked gently in coconut milk and a bit of salt and pepper. All the vegetables simmered together gently in their soup, after which I pureed everything finely. As I'm posting this, I'm sauteing off some more fennel bulb in oil, along with more cumin and fennel seeds, salt, and pepper.

The aroma is quite heady and the whole kitchen smells delicious. Once it's cooked through, I'll stir it into the bisque, so as to give textural variety to the soup. Other flavours that play well with fennel are rosemary, thyme, and sage; basically any flavour that's earthy and solid.

7/7/10

What do the chefs eat?

I get asked all the time about what I eat at Chow. I work here, and am surrounded by delights of every kind. Between the proteins and the vegetables and the baked goods, it's a fantasy land of food. I'm sure that when vegans dream of heaven, they see our walk-in fridge and our dessert fridge (yes, there's a whole entire fridge dedicated to our baked goods). So what do I eat regularly?

In the winter, it's soup. In the summer, it's a cucumber and onion sandwich. Every day. I'm serious. Before that, it was hummus with cucumbers. Every day. Before that, it was the Sacred Caesar. Every single day. I've been caught! I'm a boring eater. Oh! And I have it with a few glasses of water. When I first started working here, it was the meatball hero. When I'd make cute faces at the other cooks in the kitchen to ask them to make me something (because I was in the middle of something major that needed my attention for the immediate future), they'd often know what I was going to ask for before I said a word.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I tend to get into food fixations and repeat the same pattern over and over again for months at a time. Poor Cliff has to put up with my monotony day in and day out. Fortunately, he's too polite to comment. Mind you, when there's specials being made, I have to "quality control" (taste), and frequently. I'll ladle some food out into a bowl, and check for spices, salt, and doneness throughout the cooking process. Also, whenever there's a large tray of freshly roasted home fries, I can't resist but to quality control a few of those as well.

Boss Man's favourite is and always has been the seitan, be it BBQ, olive, or otherwise. Unfortunately, gluten started making his joints creak, so he cut that out. Mind you, he still sneaks a few pieces when he thinks I'm not looking, so there goes that. He also adores the Grilled Western Tofu. Watch him grilling one day, and marvel at the fact that any of it ends up in the fridge! I'm kidding. He's quality testing too. We all do. Either way, it's that, or tempeh. He likes to snack on the tempeh when it's cold. Mind you, he's fairly happy eating anything cold. It doesn't bother him in the least.

Chef Laura's a huge fan of salad, especially in the summer months. It'll generally be a quick mixed greens and tofu salad with a bit of Caesar dressing. Which, by the by, is so good that it ought to be illegal. Also, any time I whip up something Indian, she's fairly happy to quality test it for me. She used to like to taste the cakes and cookies and stuff, but she cut out gluten and sugar, so there goes that. Instead, she'll munch on fruit from time to time.

All three of us absolutely adore having steamed vegetables with just a bit of salt. Whatever veg it is, be it green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, or anything along those lines, just a quick steam bath and a dash of salt, and we're in heaven. All three of us also adore eating the fresh tomatoes that come to us from Jersey. We've only got them for a short time, so trust me when I say that tomatoes are fairly high on the list of snacking foods around here. That goes triple for strawberries. Of course, it's all in the name of ensuring that only the finest quality food is put forward, which means that we selflessly taste test the strawberries all day long.

There are times when I'll walk into the office with a plate of steamed veg (like green beans), and Cliff helps himself. Quite generous that man is. Cliff's also got a lot of love for a cup of freshly brewed coffee, which he can have throughout the day without issues. During the winter, Laura likes this tea that I do with thinly sliced ginger, lemon rind, lemon juice, and hot water. It kept us both from feeling cold.

What about Mini Preefer? As the son of a chef, you'd think he would have fairly exotic tastes, and you'd be spot on. That kid craves risotto. If there's no risotto, the next option is the Korean Tofu Cutlets. Also, at random, he likes broccoli sandwiches. Hear him out! It's steamed broccoli, chopped up small, with a sprinkle of salt and garlic powder, on toasted bread. It's actually quite nice. Barring that, it's BBQ Seitan. Like father like son, I guess!

7/6/10

What I've learned from Beans & Rice @ Chow

When we first developed the Beans & Rice menu item (listed as one of the protein plates on the Tapas menu), we figured that it would be a pretty neat way to open up our own and other people's ideas of how such a simple food (eaten as a staple the world over) could become something special with a little extra love and attention to detail. Over time, however, it became the "go to" dish for people who have Issues with everything: gluten, soy, nuts, garlic, onions, sugar, black pepper, etc. Trust me, those folk do exist, and I think it's equally important to reach out to them as to those who can/do eat everything. Why? Because how nice is it to know that when you go out with your friends, you can go to a place where at least one thing on the menu is specifically for you, and that you won't have to think twice about ordering it.

Every beans and rice special we run at Chow has no soy, gluten, wheat, sugar, pepper/chiles, garlic, or onions. While this may seem restrictive to some, for us, it's set us free. Why? Because let's face it: many of us tend to steer towards old standbys, because of convenience or lack of incentive to try anything else. I'm equally (if not supremely) guilty of this, so I totally understand how it goes. How does pretty close to every savoury recipe begin? Start with oil in a pot, and sautee garlic/onions/leeks/shallots/scallions/other member of the allium family, and then add anything else to that. It's almost as if the allium plants have to be there to make a dish happen, which is kind of silly, when you really stop to think about it.

There are entire chunks of the population on the earth who don't eat onions or garlic. South Indian Brahmins are one such group. There are some groups of Buddhists who follow the same restriction. I've eaten food from both groups with quite delicious results. Why can't we try something different?

So onwards we went onto the journey of finding a couple of dishes that would work well with the restrictions. One of them is what Boss Man calls Italian White Beans, wherein you cook white beans (cannellini beans, in fact) until they're tender. Then, you toss them with on- (see? I almost typed onions) erm ... nutritional yeast, olive oil, basil, and salt. They're absolutely scrumptious. Then there's the traditional South Indian daals, where they just use mustard seeds, cumin seeds, oni-- (damn, almost did it again!) tomatoes, turmeric, and a bit of salt to make a hearty stew that's served over steaming hot rice. From the daals come the Mexican style beans, where you'd use copious amounts of Mexican Oregano leaves, along with a hit of toasted cumin, and a bit of salt to taste.

As I started to experiment, I grew bolder, taking new chances with various beans, such as a pinto bean in mole sauce (which has more flavour components than I care to list), or black beans with yucca and spices. I love doing Louisiana style beans and greens, where I simmer kidney beans until they're tender, then stir through celery, carrots, and bell peppers, along with a bit of hickory salt and regular salt to taste. Heaven! Once we started mixing up various vegetables with the beans, along with different spices, the skies opened up, and it started raining pure inspiration for new dishes. What about potatoes? What about pumpkins? Squashes? Dark leafy green veggies? Sweet potatoes? And while we're there, what about using different methods of cooking said veg? There are times when I'll toss the veggies in a spice and oil mixture, and roast them in the oven until they're tender and lovely smelling, then stir them through the cooked beans, so that there's a nice contrast in textures and flavours.

Then there's the times that we're in an absolute rush, and I have to come up with something in a few minutes (to spice the beans). Those times are even more fun, because it shows what you can accomplish while thinking on your feet. I once had some leftover roasted potatoes from another dish that I was cooking (plain roasted, of course), and I simply stirred it through my bean pot along with a generous hit of curry powder, coconut milk and frozen peas to make a creamy bean curry. It was quite nice. Unfortunately, I had only made a small batch, because I didn't have time to cook more than that amount of beans.

What am I getting at? There is no reason why you can't do this at home, especially since you can use garlic powder and onion powder. When you're in a rush for food to happen quickly, pop open a tin of beans, along with the liquid they're packed in, and stir through whatever likely spices you have lying in your pantry. Some good complementary spices for beans include: chili powder (not the ground chiles, but the spice blend), thyme, cumin, rosemary, marjoram, basil, oregano, what have you. Nuke it in the microwave for about five minutes (covered), and you've got a fairly decent meal knocked out in a relatively short time.

Neat, huh?

7/5/10

Fast (sort of) food

My husband is heading home after a long trip to Chicago, and I had to think of something to make for him when he gets home. He's been mostly cooking for himself, and that's all well and good, but sometimes you need that food that only someone else knows how to make just so. I know I harp about it endlessly, but for me, the ultimate comfort food is beans and rice in some form or another. My favourite method for beans and rice, is of course, venn pongal in all its varieties.

Yesterday being the birthday of the USA meant that the thermometer was rising steadily higher, as the noise level outside grew steadily noisier. I live in Inwood, which is a part of Manhattan that's quite removed from the rest of the city. People tend to get away with more, because it's not as densely populated as say, Greenwich Village or Midtown. The buildings don't really go up that high (maybe 10 stories tops), because for the most part, prewar buildings don't have a lift. So although there is a fairly strict fireworks ban in New York, with Bloomberg getting onto the news and sternly warning people that they're engaged in Dangerous And Illegal Activities So Cease Now OR ELSE, people in a less crowded neighbourhood take those warnings as mere suggestions.

I needed to make something that wouldn't test my patience or my nerves. The dish that I turn to in a crisis is Venn Pongal. Traditionally, it's made with split mung beans, white rice, and a few spices, ginger, salt, and black pepper. Copious amounts of black pepper, if you're me or my mother. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any mung beans in the apartment, nor could I find the yellow split peas which one uses to substitute. Instead, I looked to my fridge. There, nestled between a bottle of orange juice and a couple of knobby looking yucca, was a box of lentil daal that I'd made the night before for my dinner.

Hmmm.

I also had a full pot of brown rice waiting in the rice cooker. Hmmmmm. I had flavoured the dal simply, because when I cook for myself, I keep things very basic. I used mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, asafoetida, ginger, turmeric, salt, black pepper, a bit of red chile powder, salt, and curry leaves. In other words, the same spices that I'd use to make a venn pongal. In went the daal into the rice cooker, along with water to thin it out. I tend to make daal a bit on the thick side, and I wanted the rice to get thoroughly cooked. And since this is brown rice, it can take a long cooking and not fall apart on you. I hit start, and wandered into the washroom to douse myself in water so I could sit in front of the fan, soaking wet. On hot days, I prefer to cool off this way rather than using the a/c, because I saw the electric bill last month, and was Very Displeased.

Ten minutes later, the apartment filled with the aroma of the ginger and other spices cooking in the pot. While I was waiting, I ground up the soaking rice and urad daal and fenugreek seeds that I'd soaked to make dosa. Yes, I used brown rice for the dosa as well. If you're going to be healthy, might as well go all out, right? By the time I finished grinding my dosa batter (which needs to ferment overnight in any case), the pongal was cooked to perfection.

Oh but it was tasty! I think from now on, I'll use this method to make pongal, because then I can get more than one meal out of it. First night is daal and rice, where the two are cooked separately. I can serve it with a side of cucumber tomato and lime juice salad (garnished with plenty of cilantro or parsley, of course, and a few chopped green chiles for good measure). If I make a double batch of daal and rice, it'll leave me plenty for the next day. Then, when we have both eaten our fill, I can dump the leftover daal into the rice cooker along with the leftover rice, throw in some extra water and grated ginger, and hit start to cook it. When it's done cooking, I can then put it away into the fridge, and defrost some grated coconut in the fridge overnight before I go to bed, satisfied and full.

The next day, I can pull out the pongal and heat it up. While it heats, I can bang up a quick coconut chatni (coconut, green chiles, a small onion, unsalted peanuts, a bit of salt, and some water to get it moving, along with some curry leaves for pretty colour), and whiz it up in the blender. Then we'll eat the venn pongal with the side of coconut chatni, and a side of sour mango pickles. If I have any leftover venn pongal, I'll just shape them into patties, and put them in the fridge, tightly covered with plastic wrap. The next day, I just have to bake them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes, and I'll have lovely little rice croquettes, that I can serve with a simple salad of shredded carrot, grated cabbage, onions, cilantro, and lime juice. I'll have three lovely meals for the price of one! And it's only the first meal that would take any effort. The other two are super easy, because the bulk of the cooking is done.

Or, I'll be lazy, and just eat daal and rice until I hit another day where I feel like doing something creative again. Wonder what's the next time we go on vacation ...

6/24/10

Soy Milk Mayo

1/3 cup soy milk
3/4 teaspoon of vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice
1 TB yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (add more as desired)
2/3 cups canola oil

Star with soy milk directly from the fridge. Pour in the vinegar, and let it sit for a minute or so. It'll get a little ... chunky. This is a good thing. With a stick blender, blend the ingredients well. If you don't have a stick blender, use a regular blender. If you have neither, please go and get one, as this requires the high speed of the blender to get the emulsion going.

Once the soy milk and vinegar are well blended, plop in the mustard. Blend well. Add the salt. Blend well. Essentially, you're starting to whip some air into the emulsion, and making sure that the initial emulsion is very strong, to stand up to the oil.

Then, 1 teaspoon at a time (for the first 3 teaspoons), add the oil while blending. If you have a stick blender, move it around a bit. Then, add the oil in a steady stream, while blending the whole time.

In total, it should come together in about 3 minutes. Keep the stick blender moving continuously through the emulsion to get it completely combined.

6/22/10

6/21/10

Student Discount is back!

We know how it can get when you're a college student. Between books, phone, transportation, and all the rest, your bills can start feeling a little oppressive. That's why we've decided to extend our student discount to undo the price increase. If you're a college student, and you bring your student ID with you, show it to your server, so that you can get 20% off of your in-house meal.

TOMATO!

When you work at a place that takes seasonal produce seriously (and doesn't do it for some diaphanous street cred or other such nonsense), you sincerely look forward to the seasons, because it means that you get totally different things. Mind you, if I asked, I'm sure our produce vendor would cheerfully provide us with everything we ask for regardless of the season, but we serve food here, not things that taste like the cardboard they're shipped in.

"But Dino", you say, "California is producing lovely things year round!" I'm sure they do, but when you also take things like locally sourced seriously (and again, not for bragging rights, but because you genuinely care about the distance your food has travelled), your choices begin to shrink. That being said, those ever-shrinking choices are intensely delicious. When vegetables are shipped long distances, there are a few things that must be sacrificed.

For one thing, ripeness is an issue. To ensure that the highest percentage shows up to your doorstep in the best condition possible, the vegetables are often picked long before they ripen. They're also genetically bred to produce food of a particular size, shape, and colour. Again, because the aesthetics are so important, something has to give. What gives? Flavour. The produce tastes horrible.

There are producers who take pains to ship the food rapidly, sending it overnight or some such. Unfortunately, that not only drives up the carbon footprint of that food to grotesque levels, but it also makes it prohibitively expensive. When there is so much delicious, bountiful produce right at our doorsteps (virtually) in New Jersey and New York, why should we consume food that gets shipped from so far?

So it is with the utmost of pleasure that I announce the first order of tomatoes. You can smell the sun on their skin. They're oddly shaped, but ever so delicious. Boss Man wants to roast them in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt, then combine them with roasted fennel bulbs, and then finished off with herbs. I want to do them up with lime juice, olive oil, avocado, cucumber, and the roasted fennel bulbs. We both want to eat them with a sprinkle of salt, to "taste test" and ensure the highest quality food is going out to our customers.

I truly feel like the shackles of winter have been cast aside when I see juicy, red, ripe, fresh tomatoes in front of me. Their scent is intoxicating, and makes my mouth sing in anticipation. And then there's all the flavours that treat tomatoes so well. There are times when I'm at home, and I'll just rub a baguette with some garlic, and sprinkle on a light bit of olive oil (I have one of those misting contraptions that lets me get a fine mist onto the bread). Then I slice up some tomatoes, nice and thick, and top the whole do off with finely sliced basil. And of course, a generous grinding of fresh black pepper and a good healthy sprinking of coarse kosher salt or sea salt (also freshly ground) and I'm in heaven.

I want summer to be all year long, so that I can enjoy the bounty of the earth, but I know that such is not to be. That just means that I'll have to savour my treasures that much more, until we get into the autumn, with all its lovely vegetables.

6/17/10

No need to complicate recipes!

Today, I was in a bit of a rush to get the bell peppers into the oven (we're about to make roasted red pepper hummus) while the chickpeas were simmering away. I totally forgot to oil them on the outside, and I forgot to set the oven temperature to a higher one (it's at 350F by default), and scuttled off to get to the rest of the stuff on my list. I set the timer for 30 minutes (because any time something goes into the oven, please please PLEASE set yourself a timer, so that you don't end up with a kitchen fire), and dashed off to handle other things. I come back later, after making a few other things that were running low to a lovely smell. I opened the oven, and to my horror, saw the lower temperature (at home, I usually roast peppers at 450F, and oil them), and saw the little dish of oil sitting to the side, completely undisturbed. My heart sunk into my stomach, and I opened the oven doors.

Not only were the peppers not sticking and making a mess, but they were also getting that beautiful dark dark brown colour that means that they're getting a proper roast. However, since they weren't roasted completely, with the skin pillowing away from the flesh like it should, I heaved a sigh of relief and let them go for another 10 or 15 minutes. When I pulled the baking sheet out of the oven, those peppers were roasted to perrrrrrrfection, and they didn't stick to anything.

Who knew!

In other words, the next time you're baking something in the oven that requires a long sit-in, like a lasagna or casserole, just throw some bell peppers (whole, with no oil, parchment paper or any other kind of silly fuss) on a cookie sheet, and shut the door. 45 minutes later, you'll have perfectly roasted bell peppers, which you just cover loosely with foil or a big dish, or whatever else you have handy. That way, the skins steam themselves away from the flesh, and become super easy to peel. Then, when the peppers are all seeded and peeled and ready, you throw on some olive oil, sea salt, cracked black pepper, any herbs you have lying around, and EAT!

Throw them between two slices of thick, crusty bread, with some fresh tomato slices for a lovely sandwich. Throw them atop a pizza for a beautiful and tasty topping. Throw them into hummus. Throw them on salad. Do anything you can to eat those peppers, because they're not only tasty, but they're healthy for you too.

There's absolutely no reason to just bake one thing at a time. It wastes electricity (or, if you're lucky enough to have a gas stove, gas), and heats up your house for no reason. If you have a few fridge staples, like bell peppers, garlic, or other such things, you are always prepared for a delicious addition to any meal.

6/16/10

If it's not one thing, it's another ...

It seems like every time we get things under control, something else entirely different comes along the way and annoys and/or frustrates. It's no small wonder so many restaurants go under: it's a daily thing. Just when we managed to get someone to get the grease trap situation sorted out (installing a new one, that is, to be compliant with the Department of Environmental Protection's new and existing rules on the matter), the ice machines bites the big one, and refuses to work, no matter how many times our repair guy comes out to fix it.

So we call around, and get an ice machine/walk in fridge repair man to take a look. $150 later, he tells us the compressor is busted. Yeah. It wasn't $150 to /do/ anything except to look at the machine and tell us that the compressor is busted. Also, the estimate for the repairs is in the $1,500 range, give or take. And this is after spending like $500 on buying the grease trap in the first place, and all that money we're going to have to spend on getting it installed. And then Boss Man looks at the number of tickets that we went through for today, and sees that the pile is respectable, but not exactly what one would call a busy lunch service.

And of course, the interpersonal dramas between front of house and back of house (which is stock and standard for every single restaurant that you will ever go to) is just bonus icing on that little cake. If I were a less patient man, I would have asked Boss Man to sell this place, and work with me on doing private catering gigs to people with big hair in the outer suburbs of New York city. Or, for that matter, getting big hair of my own. I want big hair too, by golly!

OK, maybe I don't.

And come to think of it, if I were perfectly honest with myself, working day in and day out in a job that's steady and never changing, and free of challenges or road blocks would drive me to drinking. To be fair, I drink now, but we're not talking about that. You know what I mean. I remember when I first started working here, and my husband was making more than enough money, so I only worked at Chow for a day or two per week. I had steady, monotonous, predictable work, which paid reasonably well, and gave me side money to spend on frivolities. I lived in an apartment with a door man, a lift, and a gorgeous view. I was also watching my vitality, and desire to spend time in doing the things I loved wick away, drop by drop.

I don't know why, but I guess that to me, it's more meaningful to live a life with challenges to face, and see each day as a new set of obstacles to defeat. It may not be easy, but it certainly feels good to have it behind me. That sense of accomplishment feels incredible, at which point all that struggling and fighting and mental gymnastics all seem worth while.

At the end of the day, I think it's important to remind myself of what I need to be thankful for. For one thing, life presents me challenges that I am able to face, and tackle. I have been blessed with a brain that can wrap itself around a seemingly endless array of tasks, sometimes all at the same time. I have a job where I can be myself, cook what I want to cook, eat what I want to eat ("quality testing", remember?), and express myself creatively when I want to. And while some days seem to make me and Boss Man feel down in the dumps, they are what make the good days even nicer. When you come up from the low points and finally hit that high point, it's all the more satisfying.

And that's kind of what I'm quietly sending out to the universe: please send me a high point soon. We could certainly use it!

6/15/10

Three pots of beans, bubbling away

This morning, when I got to work, I realised that we were out of hummus, pate, and beans. OK, maybe not completely out, per se, but rather that we were running dangerously low on those items. In most places, this would mean placing an order to a company, or opening a tin of something or a box of something else. Both boss man and I have seen restaurants getting deliveries, and the picture is pretty grim. Over here, however, that means that we need to now have three separate pots of beans, bubbling away busily.

Because they take the longest, and can be the most finicky, I set the chickpeas into the slow cooker first. The pate was running lower than the beans (because we have a beans and rice special every day, so we need a different bean cooked every time we're running low of the previous one), so I set the lentils to boil next. Finally, came the beans of the day. I had some really nice dried haricot beans that I wanted to cook. Hmm. What to make?

It's summer, so might as well showcase slowly cooked tomato, and all the beautiful herbs that are coming in from our produce vendor. I decided to make cassoulet. For those unfamiliar with French country style cooking, a cassoulet is France's answer to baked beans. It's cooked very slowly, with plenty of herbs and other ingredients readily available on hand. As fans of the Chow know, the beans special cannot contain any garlic, onions, soy, gluten, sugar, or nuts. It's meant to be that one dish that you can get if you're allergic to everything, but still want something tasty.

How can I build up flavours if I can't use the traditional soup ingredients, like onions or garlic? Easy. I can slowly cook the beans, then add flavourful stocks. The most simple stock is one that I like to do when I can get my hands on dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, and nutritional yeast. Something about the combination of the earth and the sea just makes the whole thing so tasty yet so subtle. Of course, I would also be relying on heaps and heaps of herbs, so I wasn't too worried about the end product!

I cooked the beans together with the herbs, over low heat, and undisturbed. If you stir haricot beans too many times, they tend to break up and beecome mush. It's best to just let them simmer very slowly. While the beans simmered, I soaked some shiitake mushrooms (dried) and kombu in a fair bit of water. Every time that the water from the cooking pot would get too low, I would replace it with my shiitake mushroom stock. This helped the beans get seasoned slowly, but didn't slow down their cooking (because of the inherent salt found in the kombu). Then, just as the beans were becoming tender, I stirred in a generous slurp of extra virgin olive oil, nutritional yeast, and tomatoes that I had pureed in the blender and sieved to make a smooth puree.

When the beans were cooked through, I seasoned them with salt, and checked to make sure everything was as it should be. It was! However, it needed something more to give it some weight and filling quality. In went a few pounds of roasted potatoes, and the shiitake mushrooms that I had used to make my mushroom stock. I tasted it again, and felt that it could use one final boost of flavour.

Hickory salt.

In went a few good pinches of hickory salt, and the beans were seasoned to perfection.

If you have time at home, go ahead and give it a shot in your kitchen. It's a tasty dish, and fairly inexpensive. If you want a more lazy version, just dump all the ingredients (potatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, beans, chopped tomatoes, pureed tomatoes) into a large casserole dish, and bake it in the oven for four or five hours. I know I didn't add garlic and onions to the one here at Chow, but that doesn't mean that you need to abstain at home!

6/14/10

Swedish Apple Dill Hummus

Hopefully this is something you'll try at home, but even if you won't, sit back and give it some contemplation.

So it was time to make Hummus, which is one of my favourite dishes to make, not only because of how easy it is, but because there are SO many possibilities for experimentation and flavour surfing. I've done everything from nuts, to confit aromatics (garlic and shallot, in specific), to curry, to herbs of various shades, to stirring in veggies, pesto, sauces of all sorts, and spices of every colour, texture, and flavour. The varieties are dizzying, and it's easy to "taste test" many many times during the making of.

Today, I saw a large bunch of fresh dill in the walk-in, and was intrigued. What about dill hummus? Hmmm. What about SWEDISH dill hummus? Swedish food is famous for its use of the fragrant herb, and is also famous for its love of mixing savoury with sweet (much like what I've seen of Jewish food in New York). So my fool head figured that instead of water, I could very well use apple juice. We have a juicer for a reason, right? Might as well take advantage of it.

While the dill was soaking in water (to remove the sand and dirt), I decided to get some fresh apple juice going. So in went a few apples through the juicer to make myself some fresh pressed apple juice. I made a little extra, and poured it into my cup for a "taste test", as it were. How else can I ensure that it'll be perfect?! By the time the dill was nice and clean (after three or four more washings), the juice was ready to roll. In went the chickpeas. In went the tahini. In went a teeny tiny bit of roasted garlic, sea salt, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and the fresh apple juice. Grindy grindy grind. At the end, I threw in some of the chopped dill, and let the food processor rip on full blast to let it get creamy and smooth. I was going to throw in some chopped apple to stir through at the end, but was worried that they'd discolour and look off.

"Just roast it," Boss Man said.

I get the feeling he's done this before, y'know? So in the chopped apple went with a bit of oil to keep it from sticking to the pan. When the apples were light brown and roasted, I tasted a piece. Oh my goodness! What a revelation! The apples had gone from sweet and juicy to smaller sized tart little bites. When I stirred it through the hummus, it was incredible. I scooped some onto some sliced cucumber to show the waitress, and she seemed fairly pleased as well. "It's my new favourite hummus", she said.

Nice to know!

First thing that I do at work

Is to quickly throw some beans on. Why? Because hummus needs to happen, and frequently. And since chickpeas can take a long time to cook, it's important that I have a fair bit of them ready for me to use at any minute. However, how do you get it done when you forgot to soak them over night? Two things. Quick soak, and crock pot.

I've found that the beans will soak very quickly if soaked in boiling water before cooking. So what does this mean for crock pot cooking? Throw your beans (chickpeas in this case) into a metal pot, and fill it with three times as much water as beans. Crank up the stove to high heat, and let it come to a full, rushing boil. Turn off the stove. Dump the whole business into a crock pot. Turn on the crock pot to high. You'll have perfectly cooked chickpeas in three hours flat, while you're off doing other things.

What this means for you at home is that those slow cooker dealies are worth their weight in gold. The more you use it for things like beans and the like, the more you realise that spending the money on the tinned product is not only inefficient, but needlessly expensive. In fact, if you want to really talk about making it easy, soak them over night in cold water, and throw them in the crock pot and set it to low before you walk out the day for work. You come home to perfectly cooked beans that are ready to puree into hummus, ready to make into a curry, ready to roll into a soup, ready ready ready.