12/30/11

In my dreams...Add some extra greatness!

A Vegan Restaurant

sacred chow nyc

Eat Drink Montclair wrote: "How about we add some extra greatness to Montclair? I have heard rumors of a vegetarian or vegan restaurant that used to be in Montclair, but then it had to move to Parsippany for lack of patronage. I think that day has come to pass. The vegetarian community here is pretty well sized. Just find a spot smack dab in the middle of our 10+ yoga studios and you’re golden. In my dreams, Sacred Chow will open their second spot here in Montclair, as they are my favorite place in the city. I’m still dreaming about that Brownie Sundae with fudge and sprinkles from the other night.

12/27/11

If you can make ________, you can just as easily make ________.

I was sitting next to a gentleman, while flying from La Guardia to Midway in Chicago, who professed an inability to cook. He said that it baffled him how people could make all kinds of interesting things, and all he could ever do was make a pizza. I asked him, "You mean the kind that comes frozen, right?" with a wink. He admitted to using the premade ingredients, but made put everything together on his own. I said, "You do realise that the leap from pizza to casserole is a very short one, right?"

It was like a lightbulb had turned on!

The thing is that we sometimes underestimate our own abilities, because we never saw how what we already know can be reconfigured into new things. In future, I will endeavour to try to relate the recipes I write to things that most people should be familiar with. "If you can make pasta, you can make quinoa." And then, "If you can make a salad, you can make a pilaf." And finally, "If you can microwave a baked potato, you can steam veggies very easily."

If I didn't have that conversation, I wouldn't have thought of phrasing my recipes in such a way, so that they are indeed more accessible. So, let me make those recipes for you, so that you see what I mean.

If You Can Make Pasta, Make Quinoa
2 cups of quinoa, rinsed well, and drained
12 cups of water
A good bit of salt

In a large stock pot, add the water, and enough salt that the water tastes like sea water. Quinoa is often thought of as bland, because it isn't salted enough. Don't worry though. We're going to rinse off the quinoa once it's cooked. While the water comes to a boil, wash the quinoa several times in plenty of cold water, to remove the surface stuff that's not good to eat. Drain the washed quinoa well.

When the water is rolling and boiling, drop in the quinoa, and let it cook for 12 minutes. If you have a crappy stove, as I have had to work with on many occasions, you may need as much as 20 minutes Essentially, you want the quinoa to be cooked through, and go from a tiny little seed that's completely opaque to one that is translucent and where you can see the little swirly thing inside of it. You don't want any white dots in the middle of the thing. The white dot means it's still undercooked.

When it's done, drain off the liquid, and rinse it under cold running water to stop the cooking and get rid of the excess surface starch.

... You Can Steam Veggies
Take 1 pound of vegetables of your choice. Prep them however you like. If this is one of those store bought packs of fresh veggies, I won't tell anyone. In a casserole dish, put in about 1 inch of water. Add the prepped veggies. Cover with some kind of cover, and microwave on high for 5 minutes. They'll be done to perfection.

... You Can Make a Pilaf
Making a salad is essentially a process of taking a bunch of ingredients, combining them with a bit of fat, some herbs and spices, and tossing them together. A pilaf is more or less the same thing, only involving spices rather than just herbs.

1 portion of the cooked quinoa
2 TB oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 TB curry powder, garam masala, or your favourite herb or spice blend
1 handful of nuts
1 portion of steamed veggies
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a small pot, sautee the garlic in the oil over medium heat, and add the spices, nuts, and salt . Cook until the spices are fragrant and lovely. It should take about three to five minutes. Pour the spices and nuts to the cooked quinoa and the steamed veggies. Add pepper to taste, and toss through to combine all the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning to your taste, and serve hot.
The point that I'm trying to get across is that if you break down more complex recipes into smaller, more familiar steps, it starts to gel in your mind, and become way easier to work with.

12/21/11

Sometimes you have to look for it.

I learned a long time back that not everyone is going to express love to me in the way that I want or need. It's a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. Sometimes, I need to look for the way that the person is expressing the love, find it, nurture that spark, and add my own spark to it.

12/8/11

Sacred Chow – 100% vegan

Sacred Chow – 100% vegan

227 Sullivan St.
New York, NY 10012

vegan restaurant nycvegan restaurant NYC

On the recommendation from a good friend we decided to go with Sacred Chow’s Sunflower Lentil Paté and then ordered a handful of Tapas. Ethan and I loved everything we had. We’re pretty big fans of Sacred Chow and think they deserve much more recognition among the vegan restaurants in NYC. Anyhow ;) … here we have a picture (taken from Sacred Chow’s website – our pic was too blurry) of their Sunflower Lentil Paté.

So, so, so, so good. Creamy, light and bursting with flavor. The texture was thicker than I expected, unlike other paté that I’ve had before. It was delicious!

Sunflower Lentil Pate

Next up are the tapas! In order of appearance: Shredded Tofu Spa Salad, Sautéed Shiitake Mushroom with South Indian Dip (THIS WAS AMAZING!!), Root Vegetable Latkes with Indonesian Date Butter, Dijon Marinated Raw Kale, and Roasted Black Olive Seitan (SOOO GOOD!).
vegan restaurant nycvegan restaurant nycvegan restaurant nyc travelvegan restaurant nyc travelvegan restaurant nyc travel

Did we get dessert?! You know us too well! ;) We got the Chocolate Truffle Cake with strawberry ganache & pralines. Very, very good. We also had the Sinner Bar – coconut caramel dipped in chocolate but for some reason I don’t have a pic of that one. You can sort of see in there, in the background of the cake pic. I think Ethan fell in love with the Sinner Bar. He was a little protective of it. ;)
vegan restaurant nyc travel

We had actually been to Sacred Chow a few weeks prior when we were in the city for a vegan wedding party (yay!). Naturally we “snapped” a few pics of our brunch. Oh my heaven… the brunch menu at Sacred Chow is mind blowing. I ordered the Better Than Biscuits & Gravy. One of THE best breakfast meals I’ve ever had. Ethan was delighted with his meal as well. He had……….

vegan restaurant nyc

somewhere in the digital mess, is a picture of an amazing Sweet Potato Hash. RUMMAGE RUMMAGE RUMMAGE. Gonna have to get back to you soon.

12/5/11

Sacred Chow all Gussied up: Gr8 review 2!

December 4, 2011

Sacred Chow

I've been in New York the past few days, enjoying the beautiful weather and trying lots of new restaurants!

This weekend I ate at Sacred Chow for lunch. It was my first visit and I had heard so much about their Orange Blackstrap Molasses BBQ Seitan. You can order it as an appetizer or as a hero with a side of carrot and cabbage slaw and a half sour pickle. I opted for the latter. It's served with sauteed onions and steamed kale on a whole wheat baguette. The sauce is stellar and the sandwich is incredibly filling. And I love half sour pickles, they taste like salty cucumbers, still incredibly crisp and fresh.
The space is fairly small so it's best to visit during off peak hours. They also have a great tapas menu, fresh juices and a killer dessert list. Next time, I must save room for their Brownie Sundae!

11/30/11

For perfectly steamed millet and quinoa

Use a rice cooker! I'm serious. I was in a hurry, and decided to just try it out to see what happens. I used 6 "cups" of the millet & quinoa (50-50 mix), and filled the water to the 8 cup line, just as if I were making brown rice. I hit start on the regular white rice cycle, and let it go. At the end of the cycle, the rice pot beeped, and I had perfectly steamed millet and quinoa, cooked at the same time. They were cooked to perfection, and not sticky at all.

I find that if I make quinoa or millet by itself, they don't cook up as nicely. The quinoa tends to the overcooked stage, with the little swirly thingies falling out. The millet tends to the mushy, and sticky as heck side, with the whole thing becoming a globby mass. No thanks! From now on, I shall cook it in the rice cooker, and wind up with fluffy, tender, perfectly done millet and quinoa. From there, it's easy enough to use the grains just like you'd use rice.

If you don't have a fancy rice cooker with all kind of cycles, fret not! I did it with the rice cooker at work (which just has an on and an off button), and it came out perfectly there too. I just did the same measurement: 6 "cups" (and by "cups", I mean for you to use the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker; if you lost it, 1 "cup" is equal to 3/4 cups by dry measure, so do the conversions as necessary) of millet & quinoa, with enough water filled to the 8 cup line. If you have a larger cooker, I'm sure you could do 8 "cups" with water filled to the 10 cup line with similar results, but I'd suggest you don't experiment with this one. I know it may be tempting, but I've tested this out a few times, and it's always worked out with this ratio.

11/28/11

It gets better


Even if everyone else tells you that something is wrong with you, we still think you're wonderful, just as you are.

In Belarus: Cliff's Great Grandma Leah



+ Grandma Lilly 2 the right, Great Aunt Helen in the middle & Baby Aunt Rose 2 the left: from bellicose Belarus.

11/26/11

rejointed + chickpea-rice flour recipe: g.f..

here's a little story bout me joints that i'd like to share w ye all.

i had been a avid weight lifter, 4+ hours every other day, as well as a long distance runner, 10+ miles on the days i wasn't lifting, and a committed vegan that loved his seitan sandwiches - especially my labor intensive hand-made seitan that i placed onto, my almost equally as labor intensive, hand-made sour-dough bread. this amazing bread was soured from a whole wheat yeast starter aka the mother, for those who grow their own starter. my starter was an old one, handed down through many generations to a friend of mine from Denmark. My friend, Rima, who I met while attending the Natural Gourmet Cookery Institute, gave me some of her mother, which i nurtured & fed 4 many, many years till a nyc black-out killed her. Rima also gave me an outstanding sour dough bread recipe that she was given from a friend of hers from Italy. Of course, this recipe was handed down thru the generations as well. I felt extremely privileged to have both; and boy this sourdough bread was out-of-this-world fantastic. it was combined with wheat berries & herbes de provence, which added an incredible chewy, crunchy texture along w the glorious taste of provence. the dough needed to rise & be punched down & kneaded 4 three days b4 it would be put in2 a mold 4 its final rising, and thereafter baked. mouth puckering sour & delicious like no other sour i have ever tasted b4 or after: w a thick, hard crust that almost felt & tasted like the hard crust found on many cheeses. this was the most flavorful sour i have ever tasted. when chow was on hudson street, we used to make this bread quite often, and 4 a while, we made sour dough bread sticks that were very, very popular.

near this time, my right shoulder joint began to ache like crazy, so i went to an upper extremity specialist to see what was up. he recommended surgery to remedy the joint pain that he claimed was commonly known as pitchers arthritis (from baseball), and told me that the success rate was 99%; i had the same surgery 4 the left shoulder as well. in both instances i was able to begin weight-lifting 3 weeks after surgery. i was happy, happy to be back at the gym.

then my elbows started to ache, and i went to another upper extremity specialist, and was told that i had tennis elbow, but that the rate of success was closer to 80%, and that recovery, if successful would be 6+ months. at this time, my baby boy had been born, and all i wanted to do was hold him, and also, i loved chopping veggies, as I was speedy fast. but i could not continue to lift weights, chop & hold huxley, carry groceries, heavy flour... something had to give. so i stopped the gym. it helped but not really.


then my fingers, then hips...oh man, i thought, maybe this is just the nature of my life now, and in2 the future. after all, i recalled, i had uncles, grandfathers...that suffered tremendously from the aches & pains they declared were from arthritis; so then, ergo...

oh but my baby boy, i really needed to have him close to me, in my arms, close to my face, to smell his breath, to feel his heart, to hear his gurgles...

then i started doing some research 2 learn more bout the liquid that lubricates the joints. i thought, "why wasn't the synovial fluid working to lube my joints probably? what leads to this? then i thot of cross referencing synovial fluid w gluten, and i discovered that for many folks there is an adverse interaction btn the two which often can cause joint pains. "B.S.!" i thot. of course, i couldnt imagine being wo seitan or my sour dough bread, or many other wheat based favorites. but i restricted any gluten intake, just for good measure. well, who would've guessed it, all my joint pain wi a week was remedied, not 80%, but 100%, not in 3 weeks, but in 1 week. i couldn't believe how well i was feeling, not one ache, no pain. of course, sadness too, no wheat; but eventhough, it was extremely liberating.

i do occasionally taste the amazing bbq or black olive seitan on the most delectable toasted whole heroes at chow, or i'll consume a whole wheat bun w a veg burger, but i do pay. it starts w my fingers, then goes to my elbows. but of course then, i stop, and the pain goes away again in a day or two or three.

it is a tad difficult, but i am fortunate to be building more and more recipes w dino that r incredible and gluten free.

for instance, the dough recipe for pies, tortes or tarts that we invented, or cake recipes, lb cakes.... are just fantastic that it is hard to conceive that wheat is not a part of the recipe, but alas, it is far from it.

i am grateful to be able to carry groceries, and chop, and...not have joint pain. hux is nine now, so i am no longer carrying him around in my arms. but he did say the other day in a pondering way, as we were walking down the street w my arm around his shoulder: "dahhhdid, do u think that there is another father & son anywhere in the world that are as close as we r? what do u think dahhhdid? there can't be right dahhhdid?" " we r pretty close," i said to hux, " so i bet ur right." w excitement, he said, "right dahhdid, right!" "absolutely huxley, absolutely!"

i worked real hard to make this perfect, so that u can do the same too. enjoy & good luck! any questions, please feel free anytime!

(chickpea-rice flour dough): makes 5 g.f. crusts at 1/2 lb each.

2.5 cups chickpea flour
2 3/4 cups rice flour
1/2 cup sticky rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup corn or arrowroot starch
1 t xanthan gum
1 T baking powder

w a wire whisk,& in a stainless steel bowl, mix above 2gether well.

make a hole in middle of flour, push flour aside & upwards.

add, 1 & 3/4 cup of earth balance.

put on vinyl or latex gloves.

push the flour mix on top of the solid fat, then rub the margarine in2 the mixed flours till lil balls of various sizes start coming 2gether. rub it gently in btn both hands till very well combined.

then make a hole again. next get 3/4 cup chilled water, use ice to speed the process. empty 3/4 cup chilled water, w/o ice, in2 the cup used for the solid fat, add 1 T of vinegar.

add to flour & fat mix. use a rubber spatula at first, then hands. bring 2gether till supple & soft, but not wet, roll, & shape in2 a log, then cut in2 5 equal pieces, use scale, @ 1/2 lb each.

oil & flour pie plate, spring form, tart shell, press w fingers in2 desired form. gently fork holes in2 bottom, rub a small amount of jam over holes, place in freezer till frozen.

time to make pie, & feel rejointed!

never give up on urself. there are myriad possibilities. just know that u'll be there; u will: 100%! REJOICE, REJOICE, REJOICE!

11/25/11

Another Fab Yelpster Review! (I am an addict!)

11/23/2011
I try to come here every time I'm in New York. On trip, I ate here three days in a row. And had the same waitress each day! (She probably thought we were nuts!)

But the vegan reuben sandwich is the best--I am an addict!

Everything here is delicious, yet it feels healthy and soulful at the same time. Prices reasonable for NYC and vegetarian/"health" fare. My only complaint is that it is small, and can be a little slow at time. But it's well worth it!

11/23/11

a stage of stooges: give thanks, it's not urs! (happy tofu day!)

human life is truly wondrous; a unique, resilient & amazing species. we have the ability 2 be so circumspect & mindful; a rare gift from the g*d's. i am thankful, thankful, thankful 4 my sense of compassion towards all forms of life; that a sacred chow lives solely due these rare gifts. and here i am in downtown nyc, far away from the hideous crimes perpetrated against my fellow beings.

how can it be that any other thing is more precious than the life of a newborn; yet it is meaningless through-out our criminal world. my heart dies when i think of a mother anywhere w/o milk 4 her newborn. i can see her looking down in2 his precious eyes, her pleas to the same g*d's: "please, please let my tears nourish his life." but his life is fading, and her tears r only tears. there is no milk b/c there is no food b/c ferocious greed is more precious than life. he withers in her arms only feeling pain; this is all she knows.

debates for a u.s. president: "no, no, no - if they r poor they should be rich therefore if they r not, they deserve nothing from the government." over & over, these privileged A-holes cant seem to stop themselves; her hair & lip-stick; his stammering on foreign policy; his humpty-dumpy, over-consumption; his constant changing of political positions, yet he's a front-runner. again & again... "no abortion, no gay marriage, send 'em back to where they came from..." it's all so boorish & tedious. and then there's mr. pres, w/ no real spirit of a fire in his belly - and the baby dies... oh mr. pres, oh mr. pres!

oh my, it's hard to breath, it is just unfathomable that they are all going home to carve up a dead fellow being, suck on its neck parts, chew on its bones, and various body parts; and then, "the audacity" of their thankfulness. where is the mindfulness? the grace? the sense of being connected to the all.

well then, that's where this amazing lil idea called sacred chow fills in the blanks. yes vegan! yes vegan! yes vegan! truly we can, truly we can, truly we can bond 2gether and make it happen: less violence, less judgment, less hatred, less rhetoric! sit down, contemplate where ever you are, connect to us, come, come, come, and let us be enlightened by one another. give hope to the tears, that the food then the milk will be on its way to the millions of mothers' falling tears. we r here 4 you mom, & dad,& lil baby kid. we love u, and we r so sorry that this world is letting u suffer so.

but yes, give thanks 4 ur kindness, gentleness, & ur courage to make change happen - despite the moneyed intensity opposed to ur values for all life worth being: harmonious, harmonious, harmonious; not just 4 a few insects on the stooges political stage. no, no, no! step down ye dog-sh*t on the bottom of my shoe. step down!

give thanks that this is not the stage we stand on. yes give thanks!

make less violence happen: we r all sacred! chow 2 all!

(happy tofu day!)

11/21/11

Yelp out loud!

11/21/2011
After three years of living down the street, I FINALLY tried Sacred Chow and am SO glad that I did. It and Ben (thank you!) helped my transition to becoming vegan easy, as their amazing cooking and his advice through the menu in incredible! ESP the olive seitan, roasted tempeh, and that amazing fajita special that I hope that you will make again soon! I have become a regular and am extremely thankful for this local establishment- its dishes and amazing servers that make stopping in to SC brighten my day! :)

11/19/2011
MY FAVORITE!!! Among all the restaurants in Manhattan, this is the one that I love the most! The majority of the dishes are SO tasty, and I don't really mind ordering the same dishes over and over again. The 3 Tapas deal is the best option to try more dishes in smaller portions - try the kale with Dijon mustard, it is surprisingly delicious! The desserts are also very good: some are healthy style (which I LIKE), and some are house-made decadent piece of heaven!
The place is simple but comfortable, and the huge windows make it very lit and perfect for an indoors Sunday brunch. Their brunch menu is SO good, I definitely recommend every dish there: banana french toast, walnut waffles, the scrambles, and sandwiches, etc - all delicious!

11/15/2011
Yum. This place was good for Brunch. There was quite a few options on the menu that really jumped out at me. I ended up getting the French Toast. It was delicious. My girlfriend got the Tofu Scramble (her favorite). If it's busy, the wait can be a bit long. I enjoyed this place enough to want to come back. I am a fan.

11/14/2011
The best vegan food in nyc, period. Get the better than biscuits and gravy and you won't be sorry. Any of the smoothies and shakes are delicious, and the desserts are always a heavenly medley of something or other.

11/14/2011
I haven't been to Sacred Chow in ages, but I finally tried brunch yesterday and it was great. (Although it was beyond packed and we had to wait 45 minutes for a table.) Our seitan sandwich and tempeh hash were delicious.

11/11/2011
Fantastic all around. Perfect food for your non-vegan friends. Although the menu items might not jump off the page-- they will jump off your dish. Amazing flavors. I asked myself, is this really vegan?! Amazing! A little bit pricey for the amount and types of food you get, but you are definitely paying for quality, and you can taste that!

Overview: The Kale Caesar is to die for. I tried a lot of things off their menu, one thing better than the next. Simply delicious.

11/7/2011
Only basing my review on brunch visits because i've yet to order any lunch items.

I've had 3 different items off the brunch menu and all were delicious! ESPECIALLY the vegan french toast!! I can't even describe how good it was.

This is one of my favorite restaurants due to the fact that they take everything into consideration. Organic, local when possible, compostable waste products, etc......these things should all be commonplace, but kudos to Sacred Chow for making it happen.

11/15/11

"Sacred Chow: trailblazer 4 the Tav HaYosher in the U.S.!"

Yum: Sacred Chow! A Downtown Manhattan Ethical Treat.
Posted on November 15, 2011 by ULT

When I walk through the door of Sacred Chow, and look at the Tav HaYosher displayed proudly on the front door, I am always excited and honored to eat there.

All vegan, all delicious, and with many gluten and soy-free offerings, Sacred Chow was one of the trailblazers for the Tav HaYosher in the United States.

Sacred Chow not only boasts unbelievably delicious food, but they also make a staunch commitment to using food to make the world a better place. Additionally, the people behind the counter would be pleased to speak with you about the intersections between food and activism. How cool is that?

Sacred Chow serves Tapas-style, and the best way to get the widest variety of tastes is to choose three items from their variety of delectable dishes. They’ll bring the three plates out to you on a multi-tiered platter.

I’m particularly partial towards Mama’s Soy Meatballs with Sicilian Sauce—steaming, rich, and perfectly seasoned tomatoes complete this incredibly desirable and hearty dish, and the so uniquely delicious Roasted Root Vegetable Latkes with Indonesian Date Butter. If you go before the end of the season, you’ll get in on Sacred Chow’s rich mulled pumpkin wine. Feel free to sip this next to a warm piece of their banana chocolate-chip pound cake served with hot chocolate sauce.

Did you know that you can also go there for a Shabbat meal? You can pre-pay and they will wait on you, Shabbat style. They even have a sign up in the bathroom that requests their customers to leave the light on during Shabbat hours for the convenience of their observant customers.

No, but seriously. Go here. You will be inspired by the deliciousness of the food, the friendliness of the staff and ownership, and their firm commitment to justice.

Join us on our blog as we countdown to the most fantastic, hip, whimsical, justice-filled party of the year, the Uri L’Tzedek FesTAVal! Each day, we will feature some of the amazing restaurants that have been ethical trailblazers in the restaurant industry and have signed on with the Tav HaYosher. Stay tuned for kosher restaurant secrets, little-known-facts, delectably delicious dishes, and more!

By the way, they’ve got a fantastic Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu., reprinted below:

THANKSGIVING PRICE FIX MENU:

Choice of Soup or Stew. Protein, Vegetable, and Grain of Day. Slice of Pumpkin Pie. Glass of Sangria: $45

Soup or Stew. Protein, Vegetable, and Grain. Slice of Pumpkin Pie: $42

Protein by the Pound: $12

Protein: Classic Nut & Grain Loaf (gf). Vegetable: Sweet Potato Mash. Grain: Mac & Cheese. Hummus: Sage Pesto. Beans & Rice: Japanese Kidney Beans & Kabocha w/Kombu. Soup: Silky Pumpkin Bisque. Stew: Sweet Potato-Tempeh Stew w/Tofu Dill Cream.

Desserts: Old English Pudding Cake, Classic American Pumpkin

http://utzedek.org/blog/2011/11/15/yum-sacred-chow-a-downtown-manhattan-ethical-treat/

Love for Bryanna Clark Grogan

Recipe here.

Thank you for being you, Bryanna. You're like a culinary mad scientist, with your finding ways to make everything work out really well. You are a goddess, and we love you. <3

11/5/11

"Sacred Chow: I idolize you!"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

After the Marathon orientation was over I wandered aimlessly around the village. It's what many people who are there are doing. Nothing's changed in 40 years and I like it that way. So my wanderings take me past the old "Googies" bar. It looks all slicked out Irish Pub style now but the bar itself looks like it did from back in High School. High School? Maybe I'm not remembering it right. Maybe. Since it is actually "Miller Time" I thought about grabbing a brew for old times sake but really, I didn't want to hassle with Barnivore, (a searchable listing of which beers and wines are vegan), and do a bunch of research at the moment. It's actually quite easy to use, just enter the name of the beverage or click on a letter but I wanted easy-ier. Perhaps another time for reminiscing.

A few doors further south, more importantly, I found Sacred Chow. This place has been on my radar.

I most definitely had a hankering for kale. A la nutritarian Dr. Fuhrman.
After having that Arepa a few hours ago I was looking for a home made, sit down, comfort food meal. I love sampling in house made seitan. And here it was. BBQ. What a bullseye.

It did seem like so much food but my waitress, (whose name I neglected to get but who was super sweet and helpful), suggested the Souper Hero. $14 for half a hero and side of kale caesar? Done. And a beer. Yes, what goes better with BBQ than a beer. Didn't even have to pull out Barnivore. No questions about chicken broth or other silliness. Just relax and put the mind in a good place.

Sacred Chow is a small place. It wasn't crazy the night I went and there were actually 2 open tables. I would imagine that this place ends up with a line out of the door, (and possibly down to Googies), on a busy night but I was lucky. The tables weren't packed in. I liked the vibe.

The meal surpassed my expectations in both size and flavor. I was truly impressed by a sandwich and a salad. The bread, which in my opinion can make or break a sandwich, was perfectly suited to the consistency of the filling. It had a nice toothiness but neither too hard to cause contents squirt or too soft to fall apart after soaking up the sauce. The seitan was excellent, having just the right amount of "meatinesss" without being rubbery or too soft like a matzoh ball. The onions were cooked to a sweetness and the tomato based BBQ was sweet without being clawing.

The kale salad also was surprisingly better than I had expected. The kale had picked up the flavor of the Caesar dressing and was nicely coated without being drenched. But, but but the croutons were the surprise. Less like tofu cubes and more like thick heavy bread in consistency. My hat is off to the chef on this simple meal that raised the barre.

The best part was that after eating half the food on the plate I was full. I can't imagine how much food a full sandwich and full salad wold have been. I had enough for a meal the next day. I do think I'll be back!

http://martysnycveggiereview.blogspot.com/2011/11/sacred-chow-i-idolize-you-nyc.html

Here's our tasty pick: "Sacred Chow!"

October 25, 2011

You’ve seen Part 1, you waited with baited breath for Part 2 [or, you checked both of them out just now]…so without further ado, here’s our tasty pick for Part 3 of VTB does NYC: Sacred Chow!

I had been dying to check out Sacred Chow ever since seeing it in Alicia Silverstone’s “eating my way through NYC!” video. So imagine my delight when I found out that it was just a few blocks away from our hosts’ apartment!

Remember the Vegan Meatball Hoagies recipe we posted a few weeks back? Well it was partially inspired by the Omnivore’s Sacred Chow order of Mama’s Soy Meatball Hero.

I, on the other hand, ordered yet another waffle [what can I say, I'm a sucker for brunch]. But this was not just any waffle, it was a wheat-free, Omega3 Waffle topped with fruit & coconut crème fraiche.

AMAZING! Not only did this brunch satisfy my morning hunger, it also served as sufficient fuel for an entire day of tourism. It was nearly 6 hours before my next meal, but I remained full & energized the entire time!

Go. Eat. Enjoy.

ONE AFTER-THOUGHT ON “VTB DOES NYC: PART 3:" Robyn on October 26, 2011 at 9:20 am said: "Oh how I love and miss Sacred Chow! YUM!"

http://veganstastebetter.net/2011/10/25/vtb-does-nyc-part-3/

10/26/11

Mushrooms

There's times that I want to use mushrooms in something, and I'm nervous about them exuding too much liquid, so I avoid using it, unless I do something to them before I cook. I find that roasting in the oven just does the trick without making me stand there over the stove, and baby them. If I put whole mushrooms on the stove, I need a fair bit of fat to get them going, and once I do get them going, they leech out way more water than can be evaporated at any reasonable amount of time.

In the oven, however, I find that when spread out well on a baking sheet, the water evaporates faster than it can form (and puddle around the mushrooms). I don't have to do anything at all to them; just clean them in cold water (no, it won't waterlog them) and then throw them onto a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, at 350F. Once they're cooked, there'll be a pool of mushroomy liquid in the bottom, and the mushrooms will be sufficiently dried out and cooked to use in pretty much anything I want to use them in. The liquid can be used as a mushroom stock, or to flavour various things into which you want to impart a meaty, earthy flavour.

10/25/11

FOOD IS POWER. EAT THE POWER. FEEL THE POWER. FOOD IS LOVE!

Feel the power move through u: The power of the sun; a power, an energy, a force guided 2 bring the world in2 balance.

We r the power, & w this power - everything is possible. Let's find the ways 2 make less violence happen - so we can end starvation, stop global warming, halt poverty, put down dictatorships... We have much 2 do.

We have an eternal intelligence, molded by electrons, from the strength of solar storms that have traveled through the Universe, in2 the uterus, & out in2 the world: We, & all life, come in2 being from the same molecular source.

But we r the power of a brave consciousness - we seek freedom & peace 4 all of our fellow beings. This is our true endeavor.

We r sacred beings, we r respectful towards all life.

We r a glowing, burning, yearning power.

The sun, the Universe, the uterus, the Earth - our journey in2 mindfulness, & love.

Food is power. Eat the power. Feel the power. Food is love!

10/21/11

LIQUID LOVE!

Being respectful & kind towards every source of life: Ourselves, our fellow beings, the Earth, the air, the water, the Universe, our journey b4 Earth life began, & our journey thereafter - Is the sweet angel song of our humanity. So in our daily meanderings, let us will in2 our mindful reveries: A pure generous goodness. I close my eyes, I visualize my feet, & see my body as an active volcano - Powerful fires, burning liquid energy.

We must change the way we & others perceive the world around us - Our inner-volcano burns w LIQUID LOVE. I visualize my feet again: Touching the Earth, the volcanoes bedrock, where our shared power collects truth & love from ancient sources deeper wi the Earth's core, summon these sources in2 our being: Feel them brewing, swirling, shifting, bringing 2 life a collective molecular power: LIQUID LOVE - the energy 2 create a concentrated force - a declaration 4 human-global equality. Our feet r deeply plugged in2 the core, extracting LIQUID LOVE: Up, up, up thru the body in2 our minds eye - exploding in words, deeds, movements. LIQUID LOVE is our companion now, vicariously spilling forth un2 our fellow earthlings.

Circumstances of all sorts, work 2 suppress the gathered sourcing of our LIQUID LOVE: The core reason 4 humanities being. Pay no mind 2 these affairs. Close ur eyes, project the destiny, it is right under our feet! Envision the power, pull it forth & amass the LIQUID LOVE.

Do not despair, or digress due 2 "our" media folk spouting forth life's impossible misery & inequities. No, no: Pull forth LIQUID LOVE, summon it up in2 ur being - let it dance within - we r its power: Reach deep down in2 the our common molecular core, let the fire burn! It is well known, that "our" government/political-dictator folks disregard most of "our" fellow beings. We exist in dire & unthinkable situations: Yet, the despots desire the small power, & seek out a type of greed that is both foisted & accepted by them & 4 them. Yes, they accept & know the heavy toll & agony that is hoisted upon the billions of lives that their fellow beings endure. But the endless suffering & torment of the billions, deliver the small power of imperialism 2 a tiny small-minded group of "our" fellow beings; and these folks relentlessly create a mass media distraction 2 maintain their imperial power.

Do not be distracted, do not wander: Feel the power! Summon forth our reason 4 being: LIQUID LOVE!

And as often heard in "our" many Houses of Worship: "Love thy neighbor as thyself!"

Indeed we must!

10/19/11

"Love it here!!!" Ain't nothin' more 2 say!!!

Updated 3rd Yelp Review- 10/19/2011

Here I must say again... I seriously LOVE this place. Since the last times I visited I wasn't a vegetarian, but I am now and love this just the same. The ambiance is great.

Top 3 favorites: curried steamed broccoli, Korean tofu cutlets, and peanut soba noodles.. when I say you need to have these, I mean YOU NEED TO HAVE THESE. We always go for 3 for $18 and get 6. We're overachievers, we are. Hostess/waitress has always been great to us, it's nice to see the same face there and she remembered us too! How exciting for us!

I would not suggest the meatballs, not my taste. But the three up there ^^ NEED TO BE TRIED.. Just saying :) I make my boyfriend drive us to NYC just for this place and I will do it again soon. Love it here!!!

Listed in: local veg food.

2nd Yelp Review: 3/27/2011

A second time around and it was delicious.
This place is so tiny and "hipster." Even though it's tiny and there isn't a lot of room from the table next to you, it's such a nice place. The hostess/waitress is so sweet and very helpful. She is usually the only person sitting and waiting on people, from the 2 times I've been there anyways.

We ended up getting the tapas again (6 total). We got 2 of the same things as last time, the curried broccoli and the soba noodles = AMAZING! I love broccoli so anything with broccoli, I'm all for it. We also got the Korean seitan, southwestern tofu puffs, cilantro pesto hummus, and Greek roasted cauliflower. Some of them were only there for the daily specials (tofu puffs, hummus, and cauliflower). I loved the Korean seitan!!! It was amazinggggggly good. It was so tasty, I was sad when we didn't have any left. I love the tapas idea because we got to try so many things at once.

I also got the Sky soda, Cherry Vanilla- YUM.

The only downfall to this place is the size, it's just tiny so when you get 6 plates, the table can be very small with 3 drinks on the table. BUT try it! I love this place even more the second time.


First Yelp Review: 12/6/2010

This place is really small but delicious. I am a meat eater myself but my boyfriend is a vegan and this was good for both of us.

We both ordered the 3 for $18 tapas and got 6 different things.. it was a ton of food. He also got a small salad (which are not small at all but tasty). I loved the broccoli! Def my favorite thing out of it all. I wouldn't recommend the beans and rice but everything else was really great. Mamas soy meatballs. Noodles. Roasted olive he loved them.

They have a student discount which is awesome!

Fixing Mistakes, continued

Today, we'll be talking about a few tweaks that you can make to a dish, to ensure that it comes out tasting perfectly each time. There are those times when you've spent a long time following a recipe to the letter (from a cook that you trust), and the final result seems a little bland, or lacking in brightness, or missing a little something or other. There are things that can be done to round out sharp edges, add sharp edges, or generally tweak your dish to make it work out wonderfully.

Dish seems a little too heavy, even though it's not swimming in fat.
There are times when you'll follow a recipe that seems relatively light, but for whatever reason, the major thing is that you feel is heaviness. This has happened especially in cases of soups, but also in fresh dishes. There was this one salad I made, with a peanut dressing. Perfectly delectable on screen, lovely in theory, but a little plodding and heavy on the tongue. I wanted to eat it, because it was loaded with all manner of good things (grated carrot, grated cabbage, shredded beets, granny smith apples, walnuts, peanut dressing), and lots of fresh herbs (cilantro, scallion, ginger, etc). It had acid in the dressing, so I didn't think that it needed more, but it was definitely lacking something intangible.
I started by adding in the zest of a lime. That started its work. Then, just before eating it, I squeezed on the lime juice, even though the salad already had a bit of acid in. For some reason, that last-minute addition of the fresh lime juice (and I know for a fact that lemon juice/zest will do the same thing) just brightened things up immensely.

You've used tomato from the tin, and the whole thing tastes of tinned tomato.
I've done this more times than I can count, and each time it happens, I swear that I'll never use tinned tomatoes again, and that I'll only use tomatoes when they're in season, and what an idiot I am for trusting something from the bargains section of the dollar store, etc etc. Then I'll see a large #10 tin of tomatoes at the store for like $2, and I'll get tempted, and promptly forget the problem in the first place.
For whatever reason, I've found that using a few drops of vanilla extract in the dish seems to offset that tinny taste. Tomatoes are about the only thing I'll ever buy tinned, so I'm not sure if that trick will work for other tinned veg. Overall, I find tinned veg to be pretty horrible in any case, so I steer clear. I'd sooner buy frozen, if I can help it.

The dish is excellent in every way, except it's too hot spicy (from chiles or pepper).
Traditionally, I'd say that a pinch or two of sugar should sort it out, however, the other day, I learned something new for savoury dishes. A wine reduction (preferably a white), with a bit of miso and nutritional yeast (if those flavours would complement your dish), a hint of coconut milk, and a generous bit of cornstarch seems to do the job just as well as sugar, and doesn't add any unwanted sweetness to your meal.
I made a rice and beans dish at home, which I'd managed to mangle with way too much chile. I could swear up and down that the stuff wasn't the extra hot ground red chiles I buy from the Indian store, but the wimpy ones that I get from the local grocery store (I don't even know why I'd have the wimpy one at home; that stuff is foul). It tasted great, except for the fiery burning that I felt up and down my body.
Instead of adding sugar (because 1. I hate sugar, and 2. I don't keep any in the house, and 3. If my beans tasted sweet, I would be committing acts of violence upon my own person), I decided to use up a bit of white wine I had lying around (there was some leftover Pinot Griggio I had from a party), and reduce it down, because I didn't want the rice & beans to be too watery. Once it reduced by about half, I whisked in a bit of white miso, and nutritional yeast, and turned off the heat. I whisked in a bit of cornstarch dissolved in coconut milk, and turned the heat back up. When the whole thing became like a thickish sauce, I folded it into the rice and beans, and all was right with the world. The heat was nice and controlled, while still perking up in the background, and I didn't have to resort to using sugar.

10/18/11

Cake mistakes!

Okay, so the buzzer went off, and u didn't hear it ring. Consequently, u 4got u even had anything in the oven. U talk on the phone, nibble here & there, read a bit of the Times..."HOLY SHEET! THE F**KEN CAKE! It 's burnt, it's burnt... Is it totally burnt? Yep, it's burnt!"

Well y'all know the saying: When the world hands u lemons: Make lemonade! (Or lemon pudding cake)!

Never give up on ur cake. Now, u may need to reconfigure how u r gonna present the cake. B/C surely, don't call me surely, it will not be a pretty round thing - like the one u had in ur mind. No, she sang that song. Yes she did! "Amazing Grace!" I can do anything! "I am women hear me roar!" "Yes I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained!" Not in my tookus though! Time to re-imagine! I am Julia Child! I am Jackie Kennedy! I am! I am! I am! I am Grandma Moses Big Tookus! No, Maybe not Grandma Moses, maybe just Big Tookus Moses! All right then: Next! Time to lose weight. Weight? Wait, no way! I am women hear me roar! Yes, persistence is transgender! And happily married homosexuals! And Muslim drag queens! Betty Davis? What a dump! No, no, no Ms. Thing: I am not Humpty Dumpty! And, and, and it's not over, it's not over... No, no, it's not over till... Time 2 re-create!

Let this burnt, but not totally burnt through cake, cool down some. Of course I am coming from the vegan point of fixin food. And by the by, this applies to a cake that just won't harden up as well. No matter how many times u stick that toothpick through, it comes out wet, wet, wet... U have measured wrong, too much liquid, not enuf dry... 4got some leavening...

Relax ladies! The solution applies 2 both botched scenarios.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place into a food processor: 1 to 1 & 1/2 lbs of mashed up hard tofu; a dry sweetener, 1/2 to 1 cup; extracts of desire, 1 tablespoon; nutmeg, a few pinches; Earth Balance, bout 3/4 cup; 2 tablespoons of tahini; 3 tablespoons of maple syrup; 1 tablespoon vinegar; starch like arrowroot or corn, 1/3 cup; 1 tea of agar- agar; soy, almond or coconut milk..., 2 cups. Start processor, let it spin till creamy, creamy, creamy. During the spin, place 2 cups of same flour w 2 teaspoons of baking soda in fine strainer held over a bowl, shake into bowl till silky & fine, remove strainer; then w a wire whisk - mix, mix, mix. Break a part burnt cake into small bites or cut into squares, then place in dry bowl. If the problem is that the cake is too wet, u will still have cakey parts on the outside, place cake in separate bowl, mash up, break a part... (w wet version, use only 3/4 - 1 cup milk).

Pour the liquids from processor into bowl w dry ingredients, w a wire whisk, mix till totally incorporated. Then take the "Cake Mistake" and mix it right in to the batter; then pour batter into a ceramic bowl, pie dish, square...Bake in the 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes - till nicely browned. The "Cake Mistake" should be a touch shaky. Let sit a bit, then place in freezer till hardened & chilled through.

All done! Add ice cream; fruit chutneys; warmed or chilled: syrup reductions, glazes, chocolate, vanilla, lavender... sauces, on & on...

It ain't over till u say it 's over!!!! I will climb Mt. Sinai, sit my big tookus down, and watch the sun rise and set, and I will eat my custard cake w a friend. We'll talk about Infinite Jest & cake possibilities. I'll smile like Moms Mabley. I will, I will, I will... I will eat my success w my friend in his finest dress. She'll have pretty napkins too!

Fixing as you go along.

There are times, while cooking, when you realise that everything hasn't quite turned out like you'd expected. You thought you could eyeball the recipe (more or less), and did so. All of a sudden, the ratios are all off, your tongue and brain are both berating your eyes for missing the mark, and it looks like everything is about to go belly-up. These moments can be frustrating and disheartening, especially to a new cook. The trick is to not panic. Or realistically, to panic, but recover quickly.
There's a couple of things you can do before you start cooking to avoid disasters in the first place. There are also things that cannot be salvaged, and should not be salvaged. If you've burned your spices to an absolute crisp, just toss them out, and start over. Better to lose a few cents in off spies than to go through with the whole thing and end up with a horrible tasting disaster that now cost you a lot of time and effort. If your oil smells rancid, or when you start up your skillet, you smell something rancid, throw out that fat, and start over. Clean the pan thoroughly, and try again.
Rancid oil cannot be covered up, no matter how much you'd like to think so. I was once using a cast iron skillet that I hadn't touched in a while. I also foolishly left a small pool of oil on it for too long. Instead of doing the sensible thing and cleaning it off first, I made up a batch of dosa. A rancid smelling batch of horrible dosa. A rancidness that just did not fade, no matter how many changes of oil I'd put in. Once I gave the skillet a good scrubbing, all was well. But then, there was a batch of 15 dosa that had to go in the bin, because I'd been too foolish to stop while I was ahead, and just start over.
This goes double for burnt spices. I'd started off a lemon rice, and let the mustard seeds go too long. They weren't just popped, they were little blackened bullets of charred mess. I bull-headedly kept going, and burnt the hell out of the cumin seeds and the urad daal too. Y'see, when the pan is too hot for the one spice, it follows that adding more spices will mean that you have even more burning, and not less. I don't know /where/ my head was. In any case, I managed to thoroughly burn the seven hells out of the spices. I kept going.
Bad move.
The final dish tasted absolutely inedible and awful. It wasn't worth salvaging. It couldn't be salvaged. If I'd had any sense, I'd have stopped the instant that I saw the oil smoking too much. If I'd had less sense, I'd have stopped when I realised that the mustard seeds went from just a little heavily browned (which is fine) to outright black char. I could have pitched the spices, and been OK with a fresh pot of oil and a bit more spices. Sometimes, it's important to know when to stop, so that you can save yourself much more pain down the road.
Or, there was the one time I'd made a walnut date crust. It seemed awfully fatty when I was putting it into the pie pan. I didn't listen to my instincts, and stop. I just kept going. In went carefully layered fruits, arranged in concentric circles, with a bit of sweetener in between. The whole thing was a disaster and a half. I should have realised that when the recipe says soaked DATES, that date puree will not do. When the crust felt too fatty, I should have stopped, re-calibrated things, and kept going.
Long story short, before you take any of these tips on how to save your almost disasters, please understand that I'm not condoning you keep chugging along when things have gone to hell and back. Know when to stop. It'll save you a lot of tears.
But all that aside, there are times when things aren't going quite according to plan, when you can stop yourself, tweak a bit here and there, and move forward. It'll work out just fine in the end.
Your hummus is way too thin, and you're out of chickpeas.
The prevention for this is to set aside about a small handful of chickpeas, while you make the hummus. If your hummus is just fine, and perfectly thick, just blend them separately with a bit of your hummus, and mix the lot together. Far more frequently, however, you'll need to add more chickpeas, because you overshoot perfect and creamy. In fact, it's so common that I've powered through huge amounts of tahini in doing so. That's the fix-it solution, by the by. Tahini. Lots of it.
Suppose you're making hummus, and your processor is merrily chugging along. It's taking too long for your liking, so you splash in a bit more fat or water to smooth things along. The processor kicks up speed, and demolishes the stuff in it. You open the lid, and the hummus isn't thick and creamy but droopy and runny. You promised to bring hummus! If you don't bring hummus, they'll take away your vegan card! (It's true. By the by, if anyone wants to know what to get your favourite vegan blogger with a sense of humour about his own veganism, get him that t-shirt. It's wicked cute.)
Start, bit by bit, adding more hummus, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or any other toasted nuts you like. It'll add a richness and creaminess that will make your hummus taste far superior to other hummus that folk have eaten. It thickens up quite beautifully If you want to avoid over-adding water, there is another trick you can use to make the processor cream the chickpeas easier, and not have to add too much water.
Cheat and use a little bit of white beans in your mix. For every 2 cups of chickpeas that you soak overnight, soak 1/2 cup of white beans in a separate container. (Or, do what I do and soak the full 2 cups of white beans, and follow up the hummus making with rosemary & white bean dip). Essentially, you're looking for a 4:1 ratio of chickpeas to white beans. For whatever reason, the white beans seem to cream up much easier than the chickpeas. I don't know why. I discovered it by accident, when I made a batch of hummus after making a batch of white bean dip (and not clearing out the last 2 inches or so of white beans left in the processor).

Your roux based sauce is too thin. 
The way to prevent this is to carefully measure out the fat and the flour, and make sure that the liquid is proportionate to the colour of your roux. Here's an easy way to remember how to work your roux: 1 TB of fat and 1 TB of flour will thicken up 1/2 cup of liquid when the roux isn't too dark. This means that you'll need to actually measure out a level tablespoon of fat and a level tablespoon of flour, so that you've got the proper thickening going down. The reason that I mention the darkness of the roux is because the darker roux don't tend to thicken as well as the lighter ones. This is why it's best to work best with medium low heat, and gradually get to the colour you want, so that you don't end up overshooting the mark, and get something that doesn't thicken correctly.
Suppose that you did indeed overshoot the mark, and your gravy/cream sauce/sauce is too thin. Don't use a slurry of flour and water. It'll require that you cook the thing for much longer to work out the raw flour taste. Don't use a flour/fat mixture that you whisk in. Just make more roux. It'll be fine. Get out a separate little pot, throw in a bit more fat, and a bit more flour, whisk for a couple of minutes to cook out the raw flour taste, and whisk in the too-thin sauce, and pour the mixture back into the thin sauce. Bring it to the boil, and you're set.
If you've run out of flour, whisk a bit of cornstarch with some water (about 1 TB of water with 1/2 TB of cornstarch), and pour that slurry into the thin sauce. The reason that cornstarch will work well is because cornstarch comes up to cooked stage much more quickly than flour.

Your rice isn't cooked to done-ness (while some of the grains are). 
This happens from time to time, when the water to rice ratio is off. It's happened more times than I care to remember. What I tend to do is add a bit more water, put it into a pyrex dish, and microwave it (covered) for about 10 minutes. That's usually enough to get the last few stubborn grains to finish cooking. If they're still not done, sprinkle in a bit more water, and let it go another 7 minutes in the microwave.
The reason that I suggest using the microwave as opposed to the stove or putting it back in the rice cooker, is because the microwave tends to cook rice on the drier side. The stoves and rice cookers tend to need more liquid, and tend to steer the whole mess towards a mushy mass. The microwave, on the other hand, tends towards a bit drier.

This is, of course, just a start. There are plenty of other things that can go wrong along the way, and I'm sure I'll mention more in future. I wanted to mention these simple things, so that you all can get more confident in your kitchen.

10/14/11

Random tip: Reuse pickle vinegar

I was reading the Kindle edition of a really old cookery book. Frankly, most of the recipes were too imprecise and/or filled with lard for me to make much use of them, so I casually flipped through for any non-recipe text in there. I've found that any cookery book, regardless of the main recipe content, will frequently have some darned good advice in it, so I read all the extra bits, like the intro and the rest.

In this one, there was a sort of after the recipes section that contained plenty of down-home, thrifty advice, like don't throw this or that away, and use it for other uses (like old underwear can be used for wash rags). Again, some of the advice was a bit odd, and I ignored it. Until I came to the bit about reusing pickle vinegar for salad dressing.

Huh. I'd never even considered it. I tried it out, and wouldn't you know it? It tasted far better than using just plain vinegar! And it would be fairly obvious, because the vinegar has all the flavourings that they use to spice up the pickles themselves. What a cool idea!

This isn't so much to share this tip that I wrote this blurb. I wrote it so that you go back to the cookery books in your house, and read all the bits that you'd usually flip past, while in the search of the recipes. They contain lots of good solid advice, and if you find a little treasure like that, share it with others. There's a certain cook who shall remained unnamed, who does meals in a certain time frame, and has TV shows, books, and product lines galore. I didn't much care for her style of cooking. However, while flipping through one of her books, she mentioned a trick for measuring spices. She said to put into your hand a tablespoon of sugar, so that you know roughly what a tablespoon of stuff looks like. Then, use the inside of your palm to measure spices. This way, you're not fiddling about with measuring spoons forever, while trying to crank out dinner in a hurry.

Mind you, for a restaurant, that wouldn't work, because our food has to be perfect, and consistent. People get upset when you change a particular recipe. But for home, it's ideal! It means that you can focus on understanding how the whole dish comes together than trying to make something perfectly the same every time, and you can get things moving quickly.

I would not even have picked up the book had I not been at an in-law's house, where they had all her books. I had some idle time, so I read the intro to a couple of them, and picked up a few handy hints along the way. Those parts of books are written to be read. Please go dust off a book whose intro you haven't read, and give it a browse. You might be surprised (pleasantly) to find what new things you've learned!

10/11/11

"Can you make a pasta dish?" "What if there's gluten free folk?"

Whenever someone calls for catering, my (and bossman's) first question tends to be "Are there any people who keep gluten free?" For some, it's the last question they'll ask. For us, it's the first. I tend to want to know early on, because if there's even one person who's gluten free, I'll try to steer the customer to get the entire menu gluten free. Why? Because then there are no awkward questions. There is no room for error, or mistakes. It's just all safe for everyone to eat, and that's the end of that. It's the same reason I err on the side of the strictest Kosher standards, because I want everyone to be comfortable. It's also why we stick to the strictest definition of vegan.

On that note, let's talk food, shall we? It's getting cold out (OK, so the past couple of days have been stunningly beautiful, but I'm anticipating cooler weather soon enough), and earthy, hearty flavours are perfect. The apples are coming in, and there's excellent local apple cider to be found at the grocery stores up here. This is the time to really take advantage of it.

Braised Red Cabbage & Fennel

2 TB canola oil
2 bulbs of fennel, sliced thin
2 lbs of red cabbage, sliced thin
1/4 cup sucanat
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider (or, 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup apple cider)

In a large pot, heat the canola oil over high heat. Add the sliced fennel, and sautee until slightly browned. Add the sliced cabbage, and toss to combine with the fennel and oil for about three minutes. Add teh sucanat, salt, black pepper, cider vinegar, and apple juice. Let the liquids come to a full, rushing boil. Drop the heat down to medium, and let the cabbage braise until it's tender, and changes colour from light purple to a deep dark purple.

10/10/11

Beans, Beets, and Buddies

This year, during the fast, I decided that I'd set a goal for myself to reach out to at least one person whom I haven't kept in contact with (even though I swore up and down that I'd never forget them, and we'd stay in touch). In a way, for me, it's almost as if I were doing wrong by them by not keeping up my side of the acquaintanceship. Mind you, things like facebook and twitter give an illusion of keeping in contact, but in reality, there are many folk with whom I have not had a good conversation, even though I deeply enjoy their company, and love talking to them. I felt guilty, and pledged to do something about it.

So I did. I reached out, and sent an email to a couple of people, as of Wednesday of last week. Today, when I got back to work, my inbox was filled with love from the people whom I'd lost contact with. If I am strictly honest with myself, I will likely end up losing touch with those same people again, but for now, our two souls have connected, and a small spark of kindness has been released into the world. There's just something about writing a letter to someone which (to me) is a lot more personal and meaningful than pressing a "like" button on something. I don't expect all my correspondences with people to always be deep and meaningful, but when they are, I enjoy them.

I'm not sure why I felt the need to share that, but I hope you didn't mind my little diversion into personal life, before I get to the beans of the matter (I don't think I'd enjoy getting to the meat of any matter; beans are quite lovely, thank you).

Beans and beets. Specifically, black beans and beets. Why had I never considered this before? Mind you, I'm personally not a huge fan of beets on their own. They're kind of challenging. The colour bleeds all over everything, they make a right mess of your counter tops, and if you stain your clothes, that stain isn't coming out (PS how /do/ you clean off beets stains from a white shirt without harsh chemicals?) any time soon. Black beans, on their own, are tasty ,but a little monochromatic when you're talking textures (and when aren't you talking textures, right?). Especially when combined with brown rice, the black beans feel a little alone.

This is why so many black bean recipes are loaded with onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Anything to get into that texture, and break it up a little. However, beets, in my opinion, are a lovely choice. Black beans sometimes depress me, because that beautiful black colour doesn't last. It seems to bleed out into the water (especially if you soak your beans before cooking), and the final beans are a dark brown, instead of black. With beets, it's the opposite problem. The vivid garnet and purple colours leech into the cooking water, and stain /everything/ that same colour, and the final 'do looks just awful.

However, when black beans and beets are combined, something magical happens: the two colours reinforce the other! The beans no longer bleach out, and the beets don't stain everything that awful medicine looking colour. Victory! This particular recipe is very simple, because I'm looking to make it for the beans and rice special (for which I may not use garlic, onion, soy, gluten, sugar, or black pepper).

6 cups of black turtle beans
3 large beets, diced
16 cups water
1 tsp thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Salt, to taste

OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup of red wine

Simmer the beets and the beans together, until the beans are tender. If you chop the beets into 1 inch cubes, they'll cook at roughly the same amount of time as the beans. Add the thyme, nutmeg, wine (if you're using it), and salt. Let the beets and beans simmer together for another 10 minutes, or until the wine's alcohol-y smell has evaporated off. Serve with crusty brown bread, or brown rice.

With earthy flavours, like beets and black beans, I find that a little thyme and nutmeg complement each other beautifully. Please be careful with thyme. You can very easily overpower the dish if you're not careful. The wine helps round out the flavours, and gives just a touch of sweetness, while deepening the earthy flavours. If you don't drink wine, feel free to use about the same amount of apple juice or cranberry juice for the same results.Beets and mild sweet flavours go together very nicely.

Also, I've had about a thousand and one dishes that feature black beans and cumin and coriander. I wanted something completely different from stuff I've had before, so that I can challenge myself to think of different ways to use familiar ingredients.

Of course, feel free to augment the stew with shredded red cabbage, sliced carrot, tomatoes, or diced turnips.

10/7/11

Tofu Saag Paneer

There's this ubiquitous dish on most Indian restaurants, called saag paneer. Often times, it's hard little cubes of what feels like rubber, covered in a green goo of some kind, with about an inch and change of fat floating on top. And yet, people eat it with great relish. I don't get it.

Saag paneer, when made right, is little cubes of Farmer's cheese, deep fried, and served in a spiced spinach puree. It can be quite lovely, if you were to do things properly, but when it comes to mass quantities, the dish suffers. Fortunately for me, and the patrons of the restaurant, it improves when made vegan, and healthy. Rather than using tender, soft spinach, which should really be eaten raw, I use a combination of tender and hardy greens, like spinach, collard greens, and kale. That way, when I puree the greens together, I don't let a loose sauce as much as I get a textural wonderland. Rather than using farmer's cheese, I use little cubes of tofu, tossed in a bit of oil, and baked until they puff up into little balls. They're very cute to look at on the tray.

This way, I'm not deep frying anything, while still getting the taste and texture of deep fried tofu. And, rather than cooking down everything until it's homogenised, I cook things separately, so that they retain their texture and taste. The dish is transformed to something totally tasty, and much easier to eat with roti. That slumpy mass you get at restaurants should no longer be tolerated. Fight back!

FOR THE GREENS
10 oz (roughly 1 bunch) of spinach, washed WELL, and plunged into boiling water for 10 seconds.
8 - 12 oz kale, roughly chopped, and plunged into boiling water for 1 minute
8 - 12 oz collard greens, roughly chopped, and plunged into boiling water for 1 minute

Drain the water from the greens well. You don't need to squeeze them, but you can if you'd like. In a food processor, combine all the greens (in batches of 1 handful at a time), and pulse until they become chopped very finely. Set the greens aside in the fridge, so that they cool down.

FOR THE TOFU
2 lbs of tofu, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp salt

Don't bother to press the tofu. Just chop it up into cubes, and toss it in the oil and salt. If you prefer, you can use a mister or a nonstick cooking spray. I prefer just using oil, because there isn't too terribly much of the stuff I'm using here. Either way, get fat and salt onto the tofu. Lay it out onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment. The parchment is important, because the tofu will want to stick. Leave plenty of room between the cubes of tofu, or else they'll go mushy instead of crispy.

FOR THE SPICES
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cumin seed
3 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
2 medium (tennish-ball sized) onions, sliced thinly (red works great, but use any onions you have)
3 - 12 cloves of garlic, minced
2-inch knob of ginger, grated
Pinch of cinnamon
Scrape of nutmeg
1 tsp of oil
salt, to taste

In a large, nonstick skillet, pour in your oil, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds. Let the lot heat over medium high heat, until you hear the seeds pop and crackle. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, and bay leaf. Sautee around until the fragrance becomes too delicious to stand anymore. Add the sliced onion, minced garlic, and ginger. Let the lot sautee over medium high heat, until the onions become lightly browned. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir everything for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped greens, and turn off the heat. Toss through to combine, making sure to thoroughly mix through the spices.

Add the cubed roasted tofu, and gently toss to combine. The tofu will become tough from the cooking, so no need to be that gentle! Just give it a toss. It'll be fine.

Now here comes the best part.

WALK AWAY!

The dish isn't ready for you yet. Now, you must exercise self-control by walking away, and letting the whole mass sit around, undisturbed, for at least an hour. Why? Because you want the tofu's skin, which formed in the oven, to permeate with the liquid from the greens and the spices and onions and such. You want the spices to mellow out a bit. You want the whole lot of it to taste and smell fantastic, while still having a bit of cohesion. You want to make a batch of roti, to be perfectly honest, and I'm giving you the chance to do that, with the excuse of, "Dino said so, so it must be right." Either way, this works out best if you make this at the beginning of your dinner preparations, and then come back to it much later, after it's sat around a bit.

I won't tell anyone if you sneak a few healthy spoonfuls, for "quality control". I do the same thing.

10/6/11

Creamier Hummus

There's a couple of things that you can do to ensure that your hummus comes out ultra super creamy and tasty. You can increase the fat, increase the cooking time, or increase the liquid (to an extent). All of the techniques leave you with a different kind of hummus at the end, but regardless, they're all tasty.

First and foremost is the option of increasing the amount of fat you put in. This can mean more olive oil or tahini than the recipe calls for. There's a couple of considerations to this method. For one thing, the tahini is going to thicken the hummus. It'll give it a mild bitter edge if you're too generous with how much you put in. Mind you, your chickpeas can take a lot! They can probably take much more than you think that they can, and still be extremely tasty. I've gotten away with (for about 1 lb of chickpeas, soaked, boiled, and drained) up to a half cup of tahini, and had it all come out very well! Just bear in mind that tahini is (1) expensive, and (2) mildly bitter. If you're already adding in bitter things, like bell peppers or walnuts (both of which can bring out bitter flavours if you're not careful), you want to ease on up with the tahini, and bump up the oil instead.

Unfortunately, adding extra oil to the mix means that you'll end up with a slightly more runny hummus. Again, this is OK, as long as you've got enough chickpeas and tahini to balance out. If you do end up (mistakenly) adding too much oil, throw in a handful of almonds to thicken things up. It'll take a little longer to grind it down until the hummus is smooth, but it's OK. You'll get there.

Finally, you can add a bit more water. Like the oil, you're still working with ingredients that will give you a more runny product, so please be careful when you add water.

I mentioned cooking time for a very good reason. For the best hummus ever, use dried beans, that you soak overnight in cold water, then drain the next morning, rinse well, then boil the beans until they're tender. You want the beans to cook until they're all the way tender. Don't stop until everything is cooked through. The problem with tinned beans is that they aren't built to break down. Something about the masses of salt that they're packed in makes it difficult for the beans to grind down to a smooth paste. They'll grind if you give them a long time in the food processor, but they'll take an awfully long time. It's not pleasant at all to have chunks of chickpeas left in your hummus.

Yes, it takes a lot longer, but the payoff is well worth it. Please soak your beans in cold water, then boil them the next day. Why does't pressure cooking or quick soaking (wherein you soak the beans for 1 hour in boiling water, drain, then boil over the stove) work as well? The beans don't get as thoroughly hydrated in quick cooking methods as you would when you're being slow and deliberate. That extra time that you spend in the soaking and cooking process will give you thoroughly hydrated beans, that are cooked all the way through to the middle, perfectly. No problems with stubborn beans that won't grind down properly.

I'll also note here that if you want to increase the lemon flavour in your hummus, please consider using the zest of the lemon, along with the juice. If you add too much lemon juice, you'll end up with a hummus that's closer to a dressing, than a creamy dip. The zest of the lemon will increase the lemony taste without increasing (too much) the acidity of the whole mix.

At the end of the day, I'd rather you were eating any hummus at all, because it really is a tasty and healthy treat. So even if it means you buy the tinned chickpeas, or use peanut butter or almond butter in place of tahini because your local store ran out of tahini and won't be in stock until the next week (this actually happened once), or you end up making it runny because you're using a blender (which you shouldn't be doing, but how am I going to stop you from doing so?), or you don't have any mechanical grinding tools, so you sit there and pound with a pestle and mortar, or a potato masher. However you get the stuff into you, go ahead and do it. I'll probably still enjoy it immensely, with either bread, sliced cucumbers, carrot sticks, sliced apples, or my greedy face.

Hummus
2 cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed, and boiled until tender
3 - 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
2 lemon, juiced and zested
2 TB cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed or ground in a pestle and mortar
Salt, to taste
1 cup water, in reserve
1 bunch parsley
3 TB olive oil, for topping

When your chickpeas are cooked to perfection, drain them well, and rinse them off in cold running water to cool them off completely. Add the garlic to the food processor, and give the blade a spin to chop up the garlic. Add the chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Let the food processor run until all the ingredients are combined thoroughly. Add water, 1 TB at a time, until desired creaminess is achieved.

Top with ground cumin, chopped parsley, and olive oil. Serve with bread, sliced vegetables, or a big spoon. :)