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.

6/13/10

a note to thomas friedman bout sustainability.

hi tom, thank you so much for your amazing op-ed pieces. i never tire of reading what you have to say. your pieces are insightful, engaging, goal-oriented without being bombastic. just what the doc ordered!

just wanted to give you and your readers a perfect way to make our lives, and thus other lives and the planets, more sustainable & less dependent on fossil fuels: eat more plant proteins, make less violence...reduce carbon emissions. instantaneously! i am not telling the world to stop eating animal proteins, but boy would that reduce green house gases in a n.y.c. minute, and also violence; violence on every level. if you want to help make the world and your life be a bit more gentle and sustainable, begin by eating more plant proteins. and just like that: u'll feel the flow of less violence, less carbon, less dependence on fossil fuels. and perhaps, more hope and love.

all goodness to you mr. friedman! go indulge in an amazing white chocolate-coconut/tofu cream cheesecake w halva crust, savor a few chunks of juicy b.b.q. seitan or a tempeh rueben hero slavered w french dressing, kraut, spicy onions & half sours. it's all there waiting 4 u to partake in and enjoy. make change now! love your writng!

best, cliff preefer

6/10/10

Father's Day Brunch

Please join us on 20 June 2010 to celebrate Father's Day. To ensure seating, please call 212-337-0863 for reservations or email sacredchow at aol, and we'll take care of the rest. Please be sure to include the time you'll be arriving, as well as your name and phone number, so that we can identify your table. :)

6/7/10

ah hope, it's a beautiful thing!

ah hope, it's a beautiful thing! the world, it's such a violent, tortured place, but you and me kid, we can make it a better place. you and me, and someday maybe, little you, if we teach kindness, and communicate with love and gentleness, little by little: there will be less violence! where do we start kid? okay, here it is: if we begin by eating more plant proteins, we'll make less violence, and we'll reduce our carbon footprint. i know, i know, it won't stop the conundrums in the congo, or poverty or hunger: we're a greedy, angry lot kid, but it's a beginning. yeah, sure, the world may go pop and dissolve into nothingness; but here's the kick about this creation thing, it doesn't stop, it keeps moving, and whatever we create moves right into its ever-flow, to its far reaches and back again. so kid, let's put our goodness into the flow. no kid, i don't know how much change we'll be able to create, but we'll create change and we'll make less violence, and when less violence starts moving through you and me, and maybe through little you...then perhaps...ah hope, it's a beautiful thing!

6/2/10

The importance of ethical living.

The lovely folks from Tav HaYosher came to interview the employees to ensure that everyone is being treated fairly, and with dignity. I overheard a couple of the questions, and got sick to my stomach. One of them was "Are you allowed to go to the bathroom when you need to?" Of course, the response was a resounding "yes", because that's never been an issue here.

But the fact that they had to even ask the question means that it's enough of an issue, and has been an issue in the past. It just boggles my mind that there are people in my own city being treated with so little dignity. It drove the message home to my brain immediately: these things matter. Demanding that the establishments you spend your money at live up to ethical standards is vitally important, both for you and the people that serve you.

It also makes me thankful for what I have: a boss who genuinely cares about his workers, as much as he does about our customers.