Monday, May 31, 2004

Chinatown Chow

Hills are so nice after three years of seeing completely flat land. Here's the view from my home in San Francisco for the next 9 days. Greg is such a gracious host. And he has an awesome house! Kanji, Zed, and Travis... you're going to love it here!

On Saturday night I got together with Greg, Ben, Eric, and Darin, and went out to a great Vietnamese place. I'm sure other tables were wondering what the hell "invulnerability scrapper" and "bf aggro" meant. I was surrounded by gaymers. Damn it was nice. We then went out dancing. I don't remember the name of the place, but it had danceable music, which is enough for me. I even got to stealth-sandwich Darin with Ben. Good times. Oh, and the club was totally smoke-free, so for once I didn't smell like crap after a night of dancing. Sadly, I forgot my camera, so I didn't get pics of our first Boys' Night Out.

I spent Sunday morning in Chinatown. While searching through the aisles of one market, a surprise visitor made an appearance. At first I thought it was a stray that wandered in, then I saw the collar. The cat was very much at ease in the busy store, and even decided to take a nap on one of the boxes while I finished shopping.

The ingredients for the Sunday dinner of Tofu and Eggplant with Black Bean Sauce, Sweet and Sour Walnuts, Chai Pow Yu Spring Rolls, Vegetarian Goose, and Vegetarian Ham.

Here's some fresh yuba (bean curd skin), the film that is formed on the surface of heated soymilk as it cools. Dried yuba is common, but fresh, pliable yuba is not. If anywhere would have it, it would be San Fran's Chinatown, and I wasn't disappointed. My eyes aren't closed in the picture, I'm just looking down at how big the unwrapped sheet really is.

In Singapore and Taiwan, observant buddhists often abstain from meat on certain holidays. A very popular dish, especially on such days, is Vegetarian Goose. For that reason, it can even be found on the menus of some regular Chinese restaurants in those two countries, though in the US it is only found in specifically vegetarian ones. The "goose" is made first by marinating sheets of fresh bean curd skin, which are then rolled over a filling of chopped and marinated enoki and shiitake mushrooms.

After wrapping tightly, the roll is steamed for 15 minutes, then deep-fried.

Vegetarian Ham is another buddhist dish made from bean curd skin, but in this case dried bean curd skin, also known as bean sticks, are used. Here the sticks are soaking next to shiitake, while walnuts are being boiled to rid them of bitter tannins.

The rehydrated bean sticks are minced and marinated, laid out over a cloth (I used unbleached organic cotton fabric), then rolled into a sausage-like link and tied with twine. The roll is then placed in the steamer for 40 minutes. It's supposed to cool down slowly, but I was in a hurry, so I put it in the freezer for 20 min. Badly backlit and no flash... *sigh*

Chai Pow Yu (braised wheat gluten)

Wrapping a spring roll with a filling of minced carrots, celery, and chai pow yu

2 spring rolls met an untimely end due to unraveling before I wised up and clamped down on the seam when lowering them in.

Walnuts in a batter of glutinous rice flour and whole wheat pastry flour

Deep-frying the tofu before starting up the black bean sauce

Ben jumps in on the action after watching from the sidelines.

I love Chinatown!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Crispy Vegetarian Eel and Tempeh with Kale in Garlic Sauce

One cookbook I thumb through a lot but rarely use is a bilingual Chinese cookbook named simply "Vegetarian Cooking." It has many of the popular faux meat dishes featured at vegetarian Chinese restaurants. I don't use it nearly as much as my Indian cookbooks, but it's great for a change every now and then. One of the entrees that caught my eye was "Crispy Eel." It wasn't the name that got me, but rather the fact that it was made from shiitake, one of my fave mushrooms.

Cutting the shiitake in spirals that were soaked since this morning

Searing the tempeh in the wok first, then stir-frying the garlic and kale separately

Deep-frying the "eels."

After about an hour, here's the finished meal along with brown rice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Bhindi Masala and Kadhai Paneer

As a kid, I hated okra. Part of my love for Indian food comes from the way it took a childhood dislike and made into one of my favorite vegetables. Bhindi Masala (okra with mixed spices) is a great dish, and one that I recommend for anyone who wants to give okra another chance. Here, hing, amchur (dried mango powder), turmeric, and a mixture of freshly ground coriander and cumin are about to be dumped into the cooking okra, onion, and red bell peppers. The amchur in particular adds a real tangy punch to the dish.

I've been having beans all week, so I decided not to pair the okra with a daal. Instead, I made a vegan version of kadhai paneer, substituting the mild white cheese with tofu. Paneer is made with dairy milk in almost the same way as tofu is made from soy milk, and the two are pretty interchangeable. This handy fact was something I learned here on this very board years ago :).

"Kadhai" is an Indian wok. Kadhai paneer can be made lots of different ways, but coriander and cayenne are the two main spices. Though with the memories of those fiery jerk plantains still in my head, I toned down the amount of cayenne considerably. Here, ground clove, nutmeg, cayenne, and coriander are added to the wok, with a fresh tomato joining soon after.

Tonight I timed myself, just to see exactly how long it would take from start to finish, including tofu pressing, vegetable chopping, and spice assembling. So after 1 hour and 12 minutes, here's Bhindi Masala and Kadhai Paneer, along with basmati rice.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Jamaican Jerk Plantains and Black Beans with Yuca

I am no stranger to hot peppers. I was raised on kimchi, afterall. The hotter the better, I say... usually. But this afternoon I finally met my match in the tiny peppers known as Scotch Bonnets. I actually had to take a break from eating the plantains and scrape off extra jerk sauce. Still, I am crazy about the taste of Jamaican Jerk, so I braved the heat and finished the meal.

For baking I prefer plantains with this amount of mottling. When they get black, they're supersweet and taste much more like bananas. To the left of the beans is kneaded sunflower bread dough.

Peeled yuca

I'm really into sea vegetables. Cutting kombu for boiling beans is one of my favorite ways of including them in my diet. To the right are the plantain slices slathered (a little too generously!) with jerk sauce (scallions, scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, vinegar).

The tongue-blistering meal

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls and Split Pea Soup

I was in a bread mood again today. This time I paired it up with Split Pea Soup. I generally have carrots and potatoes in the soup, but I had some chard in the fridge and threw it in.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Pizza with Thai Basil and Cashew Pesto

I do very badly when it comes to making 100% whole wheat bread. I get either rock hard loaves or totally fallen messes. Well, I decided to try my hand at a whole wheat pizza crust, since it's supposed to be a little more forgiving. It worked! Though I love pesto, the crust was good all on its own, too.

The secret to the success, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.

In and out of the oven. The house was full of pesto aroma!

Exerting some self-control and only taking two slices. Have to save some for lunch.

I love thick hearty crusts. Look how high this baby got!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Stuffed Veggie Kibbeh

Last night I *finally* used some of the bulghur wheat I bought in bulk... well a *long* time ago :). The orange mixture is the kibbeh outer layer mix, made of bulghur, whole wheat flour, steamed & mashed carrots, pureed swiss chard, and garlic. The green mixture is the stuffing, made of chopped almonds, tomato, chopped arugula, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Traditionally the kibbeh green is parsley, but I had no parsley and tons of the other green leafies.

The finished Kibbeh paired with Mjaddarah (Lebanese Lentils and Rice)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Jamaican-Japanese Flavah!

I just found out that a Jamaican-Japanese restaurant is opening in Fort Lauderdale. I don't even know the name yet, but it inspired me to whip up some fusion cuisine of my own last night. And though it's neither Jamaican nor Japanese, on a whim I did a brown rice/quinoa mix for the sushi base.

I'm about to smear a *tiny* bit of jerk sauce over the rice and quinoa before rolling the temaki. The Jamaican jerk I have is absolutely incendiary ;).

Jerk Temaki with Mango Nigiri-zushi

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Polenta Pesto Pizza

All the talk about polenta had me craving the stuff, so I pulled out "The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook" which had plenty of recipes for it. It's not a vegan cookbook by any means, but I'm pretty used to veganizing recipes. Other than the standard vegan stand-ins, I also made some substitutions with the pesto, as pine nuts are a bit too pricey for me. I generally replace the pine nuts with walnuts, but I decided to try a 3:1 mix of toasted almonds and cashews. I think I've found a new favorite pesto mix :).

Cooking the polenta and toasting the almonds. Cashews are always pre-roasted to deactivate a volatile resin. There's no such thing as raw cashews, despite what some labels might say.

Spreading the pesto over the polenta before topping with the broccoli, zucchini, and onions. The polenta has already been baked for 15 min to help it crust before the final baking.

The serious garlic breath was worth it.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Chickpea Lasagna

After the arugula substitution of the last night, I was in an experimental mood for today's lasagna. I pulled out Jo's Uncheese Cookbook for the Betta Feta recipe. But I decided to use mashed chickpeas instead of the requisite tofu. It turned out pretty well. It was less like feta and more like hummus, but very tasty. For the tomato sauce, I tried WendyG's recommendation of Barilla pasta sauce. Yeah, it was quite good! I wanted to use whole wheat lasagna noodles, but I couldn't find a brand with a no-boil recipe on the back. Thus, I stuck with regular lasagna noodles, but this time I am saving that recipe. I've never boiled noodles for lasagna, and I am not about to start :)!

Grinding my own tahini from unhulled sesame seeds. 1/4 cup of unhulled sesame seeds has a whopping 350-400mg of calcium (35%-40% of the USRDA). Hulled sesame seeds, which most commercial brands of tahini are made of, only have around 20-40mg for the same quantity.

Sautéing onions and caraway seeds in olive oil for the veggie mix

Stacking the layers, then weighing it all down for the oven

The finished lasagna along with whole wheat garlic bread and salad

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Arugula Saag Chole and Aloo Gobi Mattar

I've been skimping on the green leafy vegetables lately so I decided to make Saag Chole (chickpeas in spinach sauce). Only thing is, I didn't have any spinach around. But I did have arugula. The peppery bite of arugula blended quite well with the spices. I also had some cauliflower and potatoes on hand, so I whipped up a batch of Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower Curry).

Chopping time

The spice rack

Spices for the Saag Chole (coriander powder, cayenne, curry leaves, fennel, kalonji)

Spices for the Aloo Gobi (cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black pepper, cumin powder, cinnamon powder, clove powder, cayenne)

The finished meal

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Bulgogi-style Tofu

Tonight's dinner was Bulgogi-style Tofu and Garlic Wakame Brown Rice. Bulgogi is a traditional Korean dish of marinated beef that is grilled over an open flame. The tofu version has become a staple in my adult years the way the beef version was a staple of childhood.

Pressing the tofu blocks prior to marinating

Adding the marinade of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, mustard powder, ginger powder, and sugar. I prefer to use brown rice syrup as the sweetener for this, but I ran out.

Shredding dried wakame for the brown rice

Before baking and after

Ready to chow down!