Monday, December 24, 2012

Two Foodies Make Ice Cream for the World

Unlike Vancouver, New York, or San Fransisco, Boston does not (yet) have the reputation for being a vegan hub.

But things are starting to change. 

In Allston, a young, chic, urban couple decided to open an ice cream shop aptly named Fomu. (Do check out their website.) The ice cream is mostly coconut-based with a couple flavors made from an almond/cashew blend. (Soy soft serve will be arriving shortly.) I will admit that I had my reservations when I first visited last summer. Though I'd read nothing but rave reviews online, I prepared myself for their ice cream being "pretty good." But upon tasting the rich flavors, I actually laughed a bit at the disconnect in my brain, thinking "It isn't possible. This HAS to have dairy in it. It's so creamy!" In fact, the longer I tasted it, the more I came to the conclusion that this ice cream was far superior to any I'd tasted.

Deena Jalal and Hin Tang wouldn't, at first glance, seem like the couple you'd expect to obsess over frozen desserts. Deena had gone into marketing and advertising after school, and Hin was working in finance, which kept him busy consulting and traveling.  They were doing well in their respective careers.

Deena, one of the co-owners

And yet they both had a great fondness for fine dining, agreeably lumping themselves into the foodie category. With Hin's family's experience owning several small restaurants, they were familiar with the many aspects of the food business. Owning an ice cream shop became a dream they'd turn over in their heads. As Deena pointed out, ice cream is such a happy food; everybody loves it. Additionally, they began to question whether their current careers were adding value to the world. (Though Deena was quick to clarify that while both lines of work do provide much value as a whole, they were beginning to think their collective contribution to the world lay elsewhere.)

In the midst of all this consideration, the perfect space in Allston became available. It was just the size they would need, and it abutted two popular vegan joints: Grasshopper (a Chinese restaurant) and Peace o' Pie (a pizza parlor. You must get the barbequed chick'n with onion rings on top. Oy.). They realized, "If we don't do it now, we'll never do it."

And so Deena, nine months pregnant with their first child, and Hin bought the space and immediately went into action transforming it into a hip ice cream shop. A few weeks later, Deena gave birth to their son. And a few weeks after that, on May 30, 2012, they opened their doors for business. (I know. I feel lame too.)

Deena and Hin are not vegans, which may make their decision to open a dairy-free ice cream shop all the more surprising. Both, however, had many friends and family who were were either vegan or allergy-prone. (Though being lactose-intolerant is actually quite normal for adult mammals, but that's a whole other subject.) So their goal, in Deena's words, was to "bring ice cream to everybody!" She went on to confess that they were ice cream snobs, so they played with flavors and ingredients until they felt they had a superior product. (They continually experiment and come up with new flavors.)

Deena pointed out that they don't specifically advertise their ice cream as vegan, because some people shut down when they hear that word. In fact, the majority of their customers are not vegan and often don't realize that the ice cream is dairy-free. For Deena and Hin, though, it should be all about tastes that everybody can enjoy. And yet the vegan community is so strong in Boston, that the word spread immediately and they've had a very loyal following.

By the time Deena and I had sat down to talk about their business, I'd previously eaten at Fomu four times and was familiar with/addicted to many of the flavors. (On my first visit, I got my favorite concoction from childhood -- a mint chocolate sundae with hot fudge and coconut ice cream. All vegan. All to-die-for/I-need-to-be-alone good.) The most obvious question to ask was which flavors were her favorites. Her eyes lit up as she glanced up at the menu on the wall. (It changes often, as they only aim to use only fresh ingredients in season.) After thinking a moment she shared that her current favorites were  Cinnamon Bun, Thai Peanut Chli, and Cherry Amaretto. "Say," she said suddenly, "do you want to try some flavors?"

It was like the ice cream fairy godmother flicked her glittery magic wand.

They put a scoop of each of her favorites into a cup and I sampled each in the name of proper research. The Cinnamon Bun actually had pieces of gooey cinnamon bun inside. I wanted to cry a little bit, it was so good. The Thai Peanut Chili was, at first, just a lovely creamy light peanut flavor (and I normally don't like peanut flavors in ice cream) then suddenly the heat curled in a warm unfurlinglike way around the edges of my tongue. So fun and surprising! And addictive. But there was still one flavor to sample: Cherry Amaretto. This baby was plain naughty. The sustantial chunks of cherry inside made me scoop it all into my mouth an a voracious, unladylike way. (But as Ryan so often points out, "Hey. I married now. I can do what I like.")

This past August, Fomu participated in Boston's Ice Cream Showdown, a fundraiser that showcases local ice cream makers in an effort to raise money to fight hunger. Fomu was the only nondairy ice cream vendor there and initially people only trickled to their booth cautiously. Shortly after, though, the word spread and a long line of ice cream fans waited to sample their flavors. Deena was thrilled to see "an overwhelming response from dairy eaters." An interesting trend many noticed was that after eating Fomu's ice cream, all the traditional dairy ice creams seemed overly sweet.

Fomu is located in Allston, a huge student hub due to the gargantuan amount of colleges and universities. You can't walk two feet without tripping over a university. Here a hungry student gets fueled up before going back to work. (Presumably a student. I'm totally making this up.)

Nice little sitting area. I was there from about 4:30 - 5:30. As I left, the post-dinner crowd started to filter in.

I love the layout of this place. On the left is a freezer full of well-frozen pints to take home. They survived the heated one-hour traffic-ridden ride home on the Pike very well.

Very important to get a hot beverage if you're getting ice cream in winter.

I haven't tried these yet, but I have to believe they are spectacular. 

Fomu's been much talked about in Boston. There have been rave reviews from The Boston Globe, The Boston Pheonix, and VegNews. I even came across this random blog entry which mentioned a BEAR going into the store. I suddenly realized I was there at the same moment the blogger was because I remember seeing that bear last summer! And sure enough, you can see me in the background in one of the pictures, with a black tanktop on. Crazy coincidence! (If you are confused about the bear part, as well you should be, check out the blog entry and scroll down to the pictures.)

Anyhow, if you come through Boston, I hope for your sake that you check this place out. If you truly care about your taste buds, you will head straight over to Fomu. Try the aforementioned flavors plus the Salted Caramel and the Dark and Stormy. Mmm...


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Humanity vs. Bovinity

Humanity. This word has been perplexing me lately. The more I think on it, the more the word is losing its intended meaning. 

The other day, Ryan and I were driving into Boston and listening to NPR. A story came on about the crisis in eastern Congo. A man and his family had just buried his young daughter, who had been killed by rebels. After the rushed burial, they fled the city of Goma with thousands of other displaced people. My heart broke for them and I thought, not for the first time, "What is wrong with people? Why are we killing each other?" I imagined what that would feel like. Burying your daughter. Fleeing your home. Not having any safety net. Why I happened to be born here and not in eastern Congo. What that child's parents are thinking and feeling at this very moment.

Morbid thoughts, perhaps. But as much as I like lightness and fun -- and my life is full of both and, in my opinion, both are necessary in order to do good in this world -- I do think it's important that we reflect on these ideas at the very least.

The story of this family is just one of millions happening in the world right now. Human and non-human animals are slaughtered every day. (With animals, though, it is 10 billion per year. And that's just land animals. In the United States.) We humans are capable of awful things. And what scares me a little, as I continue to age, is realizing that these behaviors aren't that unusual. I'd always assumed that, while there might be the occasional person with cruelty in their heart, most people were good. And now I just don't know. I want to believe we're all good, but there just seems to be so much evidence to the contrary.

Humanity, according to my American Heritage Dictionary,  means, among other definitions, the following: "the quality of being humane; benevolence."

Humane, in turn, refers to someone or something "[c]haracterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion; marked by a motivation by a concern with the alleviation of suffering." 

I don't see many other animals killing their own kind regularly. Sure, it happens here and there. But we don't put those animals up on linguistic pedestals and say, "Here is our model of behavior!" When you think about it, it's pretty audacious to imply that we are models of mercy and compassion. We even refer to mass murderers as "animals," when in fact non-human animals don't typically engage in such self-destructive behavior. We humans seem to have the monopoly on that one, don't we?

Do I think the majority of humans would kill others if given the chance? Not at all. Am I a "people hater"? No. I see beautiful kindness emanating from people every day. People in my life and in the world at large astound me with their gifts and brilliance. My students never fail to give me incredible hope and fill me with pride every day.

But I wonder at people who proudly proclaim they support "humane meat," (or who just eat any old meat) but who are not willing to find out if the treatment of these animals matches the behavior they hope is occurring. I'll save you the suspense. It's not. This is from one who hoped desperately herself that her humane meat came from happy animals. I did the legwork on this one, and the treatment of these beings is not, in my opinion, kind, merciful, or compassionate.

Here's some of what goes on at humane farms, slaughterhouses, hatcheries, etc. Male chicks ground up alive, gassed, or bagged up alive like trash. Animals in slaughterhouses who are very much alive as they go through "processing." Baby calves and goats taken from their mothers, often with their umbilical cords still attached, brought to market terrified, and killed. (We can't have them taking our milk and cheese.) Animals debeaked, detoed, dehorned, branded and castrated without any anesthesia. (Think on that a moment. They have nerve endings like we do. Imagine what that would feel like.) Cows forced to provide milk (while pregnant with their next calf), having their production wane after 5 years, and then being killed for hamburger meat. If this is what "mercy, kindness [and] compassion" look like, then I'd rather not side with humanity.

I could go on and on. And if I sound angry, that's because I am. There's always a bit of truth to stereotypes, and the "angry vegan" is no exception. When you see how awful people are to feeling, breathing beings; when you see the actual joy in people's faces with they do unspeakable things to animals -- you get plenty angry. Sure my life is terrific. And I'm a pretty happy person most of the time. But you can't help but get angry when you see what is really going on. And you can't help but feel angry when people put down one's choice not to participate and then laughingly joke about bacon, veal, and lamb just to hurt you. (And yet those same people would be incensed if you made them watch footage of how pigs, calves, and lambs got to their plate.)

I've talked with people who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses, hatcheries, and dairy farms. First off, these people amaze me. I could not imagine doing such work for so many reasons. But what's most remarkable about their work is that the awful footage they document is not an anomaly. It's everyday stuff.  It doesn't matter when they go undercover or where. It's always there. Butterball has been exposed twice in the last year for incredible cruelty but in their press releases both times the company feigned shock and surprise that this was going on. Please. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ...

I'm always hesitant to write such posts because I feel like I'll come off as thinking I've got it all figured out and that I'm lily-white perfect. If only. As Jo March beautifully stated in Little Women, "I'm hopelessly flawed."

But after seeing the things I've seen, I'm pulling the words "humane" and "humanity" out of my vocabulary for a while. At least until we shape up a bit. Or maybe I'll come up with another word to describe kindness and compassion. Maybe bovinity. You don't hear about cows massacring other cows, do you?

There seems to be an unwritten rule that eating meat is normal and to question it is socially awkward and a little rude. But if we're going to tout the word humanity, shouldn't we be willing to back it up with a good hard look at what we're supporting?

May the coming season of giving be filled with great bovinity for you and your loved ones. :) (Autocorrect is getting very antsy over that word.)

And may the word humanity ultimately reflect its definition.


If you want to learn more about "humane" meat, dairy, and eggs, listen to this podcast. It's very well done!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lucky Winners!

Update: A week has gone by and I did not hear from the winners below. (Bummer!) So the next two winners are LCSmolcha and Sara. Congratulations! Leave me your email (the one where you'd like the subscription sent) in the comments section below or, if you prefer, you can email me your email address at suburbansnowwhite at gmail dot com.

Short post.

I enjoyed two lovely weekend mornings full of laziness and then brisk, long walks. Then there was mowing endless leaves into mulch to fertilize the grass. Add to that one intense yoga session that reminded me what happens when you blow off yoga for too long. And the cherry on top: one estrogen-filled evening seeing the new Twilight flick with a dear friend.

Sergio, me, and Kaci enjoying morning sunshine. I am reading one of my Sookie Stackhouse books and loving every second.  I have a vampire thing, following the lead of almost every teenage girl in the United States. (I never said I was deep.)
I continue to work on my book. Mornings in my pj's with coffee seem to produce the most results. Kaci supervises to make sure I don't slack off.

But this isn't why you tuned in, is it?

It's time to announce our two winners, each of whom will receive one online subscription to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's 30-Day Vegan Challenge! Once again, I love having giveaways, but I despise not being able to give everyone the prize. I really get bummed out that not everyone wins.

Ryan did the honors of picking out two names (printed on paint sample papers) out of one of his funky hats.

He kind of has that John Edwards mystical look going (the medium, not the politician.)

And the winners are ...

Forgive me, Lessley. I missed the second "s" the first time around.

Congratulations Kara and Lessley! Please send me your email addresses to suburbansnowwhite at gmail dot com so I can forward it to Compassionate Cook. (Be sure to get back to me by next Sunday! If winners don't respond within one week, I'll open the subscription to the next guy/gal pulled out of the hat.)

Thanks to everyone for entering! And for a little while longer you can get a permanent online subscription to the 30-Day Vegan Challenge for $20. (It's going to go up $35 soon.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Giveaway! Subscription to 30-Day Vegan Challenge. (squeal!)

Update: See below in giveaway offer!

First off, I have been a very lame Snow White. I did not finish my Vegan Mofo by reaching my goal of 10 posts in one month. (sigh)

And yet, I don't feel too guilty. It's been a chaotic little autumn and one that Mr. Snow White and I were not looking forward to, due in great part to full-blown ninny-ness of forces that have wanted to do us harm. Hopefully this will resolve itself very shortly. (Sorry, can't go into it more than that.) But it's all been stuff that, in the big scheme, really doesn't matter. We have each other, everyone's healthy, Kaci does NOT have cancer, as our new vet suggested she might (the vet was thrilled as were we), we are both employed, we have a wonderful support system, and we both have good skin.

While going through this tumultuous time, though, I recalled some supportive words that had floated from the Facebook status of one Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. After having no luck retracing those pearls of wisdom, I wrote to Colleen, asking if she'd share them with me. Her husband had spoken them to her when they were facing similar ninny-like forces. Just seeing these words calms my heart (which has been beating much too quickly for my own good.)

"Keep breathing. Tell the truth. Be fearless. Choose love. Embrace mystery."

Beautiful, no? I feel so grateful to her and her husband David for sharing that calming mantra with the world. It's done wonders for my mindset.

And speaking of Ms. Colleen ...

She's got an incredible new online program called The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. I heard about it on her podcast and initially thought it wouldn't apply to me, since 1) I was a regular listener of the podcast, 2)  I had all her books, and 3) I had already been vegan for a while. How much new stuff could it offer someone like me?

A lot, it turns out.

The program only cost $20 and I originally decided to sign up so I could review it here for any folks here who wanted to try cutting meat, dairy, and eggs from their diet for just thirty days. I didn't anticipate how much I'd get from the experience.

The whole thing is designed to take you from day one, when you have no idea yet how you're going to pull this off, to the last day, when you realize how flippin' easy it is to eat without hurting anyone. You get one email per day, which opens up new parts of the program to you, step by step. I like this, because I tend to be an all-or-nothing gal who reads ahead, jumps in with both feet, and then often burns out. (Hello knitting.)  This way forces you to take it slow. The great part is that after that day's content becomes available, you keep it forever and can go back to it whenever you like. (Think of it as an online book you purchased. But a book with videos, podcasts, etc.)

The video section includes the following subjects: Stocking a Healthy Vegan Kitchen, Reading Labels, Getting to Know the  Grocery Store, Choosing the Proper Knife, Using the Proper Cutting Board, Tempeh Bacon Cooking Demonstration, Making the Time to Cook, Eating Out and Speaking Up, Rethinking Meat Cravings, Discovering That There is Life After Cheese, Kale Chips and Kale Salad, Plant-Based Milks, Better Baking without Eggs, Drop Biscuits, Green Smoothies, Finding Abundant Food Options While Traveling, Demystifying Tofu: It's Just a Bean, Eating by Color, Black Olive Bruschetta with Cashew Cream, Compassionate Fashion: It's Cool to be Kind, and A Vegan Thanksgiving. As a more seasoned vegan, I was amazed at how much these videos helped me, particularly the ones that addressed the interesting social issues that seem to arise.

There is a whole Audio Podcast section that is separate from her original podcasts on itunes. Like the videos, they cover a wide range of topics.

The Resource Section is a great go-to place for hardcore information, including Finding Vegan Food in Non-Vegan Restaurants, Restaurant and Travel Websites and Apps, and Tips for Making Travel Stress-Free and Fun. She delves into those often asked questions regarding protein, calcium, vitamins D and B12, and iron.

There are oodles of recipes, most of which I have not tried yet. (Did I mention it's been a stressful autumn?) But they sound delicious. Among them are the following: Coconut Red Lentil Dahl, Soba Verde Salad, Truffle Popcorn (!!), Lemon Artichoke Tapenade, and Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon. Yes. Yes to all of that.

And finally, there is a community aspect to the website as well. You can log on to ask questions to other folks. Or you can simply read the online discussions and learn from the expertise (and humor) of others.

Compassionate Cooks was kind enough to offer a free subscription to one lucky Suburban Snow White reader. This, my friends, is where you squeal. UPDATE: They have offered SSW not one, but TWO free subscriptions to The 30-Day Vegan Challenge.    Fainting.


If you've ever wondered if Ellen or Bill Clinton were on to something, but don't want to declare you're "going vegan," this is right up your alley. (And if you are totally on board, it's up your alley too.) If you merely want recipes on hand because you have a couple of vegan friends and always panic when they're coming over, wondering "What on earth do we make?" then this is a great chance to get some terrific ideas. Though truthfully, you'll end up wanting to hoard the food for yourself. Maybe you're just plain curious about veganism but have no intention to eat that way. You will learn a ton! So there's no pressure for the person who wins this to commit to an animal-free menu. I promise not to stalk you and peek into your windows to see what you're making. Unless, of course, you want to become my full-time chef.

Colleen is a super relaxed gal who explains things in a very common sense way. You don't feel preached at or guilted into anything. She just shares the information and lets you make up your own mind.  But I'm warning you -- you'll want her to be your new best friend. I'm JUST saying.

If you'd like to win this, simply write a comment below. You could explain why you'd like to win the subscription. Or share a tongue twister. Or send a message to Kaci telling her how pretty she is. Whatever. Be creative and have fun. Just be sure to leave an email address where I can reach you!

The Giveaway ends November 18, 2012 (Sunday night). Good luck! (I should mention that I'm not making a dime off of this. Just spreading the love.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Easy Bebere Kale! Vegan MOFO Post #8

This picture has nothing to do with the post. But isn't my kitty cute???

My dear friends Stacey and JJ are both adept at creating quick and easy recipes that are delicious and super healthy. Stacey's lunches inspire me every day and one can get oodles of lipsmacking recipes from her. (See JJ's wonderful lemon artichokes to get an idea...)

This recipe is one that has become a staple in our house. And it was really popular this summer, as I planted tons of kale, which we continue to harvest from the garden. You need:

olive oil
apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mixture. I've never actually bought it myself, as Stacey got a big stash from a friend from Ethiopia and gave me a couple of containers of it. But I'm sure you can buy it at an Ethiopian restaurant. There's also a recipe here on Epicurious. 

First buy one or two bunches of kale. The kale below is Curly Kale, freshly picked from our garden.

Rinse it really well, particularly if it's from the garden. I tend to check each leaf very carefully to make sure there are no visitors.

Then you simple grab the stalk with one hand, and with the other you just rip off all the leaves in one fell swoop. It's satisfying! You can cut the stems up if you like, as they are perfectly edible, but I'm a bit lazy and just compost them.

Rip the remaining pieces up into smaller bits. (But not too small.)

Cut up a few cloves of garlic. (I usually do 2-3, but do it according to your taste.) Saute the garlic in some olive oil on medium heat.

Add the festive kale. It will be take up a lot of volume initially, kind of like the tulle under those wild old-fashioned dresses, but keep turning it over and stirring it into the garlic and oil and it will cook down pretty quickly. I will usually add a bit of water -- a few tablespoons - to keep it from getting dry.

Here's the pretty berbere. Isn't that color gorgeous?

 I lightly add it to the kale. I've probably used about a quarter teaspoon or so here.

Keep stirring the mixture around. Here you can see it's cooking down, but there are are still sections that are dry and need to be incorporated. Keep going it until it's cooked down but still bright green.

Take it off the heat. Add a little pepper and salt to taste and about 1 or 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Stir it all up.

When you take your first forkful, you will doubtless feel a sense of wonder, as your taste buds begin to sing music you didn't know they knew. At this point, you will want to hold up your wine glass and make a toast to Stacey and JJ for bringing this new incredible dish into your permanent rotation. Life will never be the same. (You think I'm joking? We both crave this stuff and probably eat it every other night.)

Below is a particularly tasty dinner of the Berbere Kale, my invented squash/sweet potato/apple/walnut thing, and Soy Chorizo Black Bean Stew over rice. (The latter is from The Vegan Slow Cooker, a book that has been making walking into the front door each night very rewarding.)

What's your favorite way of cooking up greens fast?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Cure for the Aisle Three Blues: Vegan MOFO Post #7

Our fridge. Payton, the turkey we sponsored last Thanksgiving; our cat butt magnets, a lovely housewarming gift from Ms. Tufts; and the thing that keeps me from going over the deep end -- our personal shopping list.

Raise your hand if this is you.

You go to the supermarket, perusing the different aisles and buying what is on your list. And then -- dang -- you realized you forgot such-and-such in aisle three. So you trek back through the crowds, colliding with other carts and politely letting others through.

You so meant to get here earlier today when there were no crowds, but so-and-so called and then you had to do that thing that you've been putting off. And then, of course, you had to go to that appointment at eleven that you scheduled four weeks ago. And, you sheepishly admit to yourself, sleeping in this morning didn't help either. (Apologies to all the parents out there who are now understandably rolling their eyes at the couple with no children.)

Before you knew it, there was no other time to go to the market than NOW. And NOW is exactly the time that everyone else decided to go to the market. (They had the same kind of unfolding day.) The last thing you want to do is to have to retrace your steps and go back to aisle three.

Can I have a Hallelujah?

After enough trekking backwards to aisle three in my life to cover the length of the Massachusetts Turnpike, I decided to make a grocery list that actually made sense. I don't like my precious weekend time eaten up by retracing my steps. There are gardens to dig! Movies to see! Games to play! (And yes, a house to clean and all that, but who wants to think about the boring stuff? A post devoted to food shopping is bad enough.)

To make a more speedy shopping trip, I mapped out in my mind the best walking route through my favorite supermarket (one end to the other, in a winding, snakelike fashion). Then I listed the groceries I normally buy along that route. After a month of tweaking this list of items, I came up with a shopping list that allows me to get into the store, do my thing FAST, and then get out in record time, allowing me to resume my weekend.

Notice that this is the same list, done twice. That way, I just print several copies, cut them in half, and then stick them on our fridge with a strong magnet, so they're ready to go whenever we need them.

I created it on my Googledocs account (or you can just create a Word document) and then shared the document with my husband. So now it's online where we can access it, edit it, and print it from anywhere. If you'd like a copy, leave a comment below with your email and I'm happy to share the document with you. (I won't enable the "edit" function for you, but you can just copy it and paste it onto a new document and then revise the whole thing for your eating preferences and store layout.)

Another thing I find helpful is to write the week's menus on the blank side of the shopping list and then when I'm done shopping, I hang the menu on the fridge so I can refer to it throughout the week. If I'm using a recipe from a cookbook, I list the cookbook intials and the page the recipe is on, so I don't have to hunt for it later in the week when I'm hungry and grumpy.

Sorry these are so out of focus! I have much to learn about photography. But this is an example of the list filled out. 

And this is the flip side of the list, showing our weekly menu with cookbook initials and page numbers. (As you can see, I cooked a LOT from the Vegan Slow Cooker cookbook this week.

What sorts of timesaving tricks to you use to make life about living and not about backtracking? (These can be kitchen-related or otherwise.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Indian Stuffed Okra: MOFO Post 6

This is my Dad. Nicest guy you'll ever meet.

He also happens to be a clever cook -- one of those enviable people who can randomly scout out the fridge and cupboards and then invent some delicious and artful concoction. I didn't inherit this gene.

On occasion, though, he does resort to cookbooks. Or cookbook, I should say, as I've only ever seen him using one. (There may be others, but I can't call them to mind.) This particular cookbook was bought, I believe, after he returned from his Peace Corps service in India. It's yellowed. It's tattered. It's long been out of print. And it's actually held together with a rubber band. But, boy, the food he makes from this book is go-oo-ood.

Sorry for the out-of-focus view.  As you can tell by the cover, it's not a vegan cookbook, but there are some tasty vegan recipes in there!

Last weekend, Ryan and I went down to Dad and Mary's (my stepmom since I was in third-grade!) because my Uncle Tom and Aunt Sane (sah'-nee) were in town from Stockton, California. Tom is the kind of uncle who taught us nieces and nephews raunchy (but kid-friendly) songs, took us to waterparks on chilly nights, and coasted the car down steep roads with us kids in the back squealing with delight. He also told us a very convincing version of The Hooked Hand before going down a winding dirt road into the woods. I don't think my cousin Sarah ever recovered from that.

Sane is quieter than Tom and has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. If you're not listening carefully, you could miss one of her funny quips, which are always uttered matter-of-factly under her breath. The kind of quips that make you snort almond milk out your nose.

She's also a looker.

For our laughter-filled reunion dinner, my Dad made Stuffed Okra, a vegan curry, and a chicken curry. (Ryan and I are the only vegans in the family. For now.) :) It was a drizzly and cold evening -- perfect for spicy food!

For your viewing pleasure, here is the simple recipe.

You need:

1 pound okra
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

First you wash the okra.

Vegetables really know how to look good.

Then you mix the spices up in a bowl. (Or a measuring cup, if you're feeling adventurous like my Dad.)

Make a slit in the side of each okra pod and spoon some of the mixture in.

Heat the oil in a seasoned pan. (Dad is the iron-skillet seasoning MASTER. He can find the rustiest pan in a yard sale and turn it into a gleaming professional looking pan in about a week.) Place the okra in the pan and squeeze lime juice over all the okra, like a lime shower.

Then you cover it (or not) and cook on low heat, according to the directions. But my Dad used medium high heat. (See? He's insane. But it works.)

This is what it looks like when it's done.

And this is what it looks like all pretty on the plate.

My dinner!

Stuffed okra is so savory and makes my mouth very happy. Not one piece remained. You'd think it would be kind of dry with all the spices, but it isn't. You've got to try it to believe it.

Tom, the uncle every kid should have.

Sane, on the verge of a one-liner.

Mary and I chillin' in the kitchen. Why do people bother building living rooms? We all end up in the kitchen anyway. 

I'm sad that Tom and Sane flew back home. I wish they lived closer. Things always feel complete with them around. :) Anyhow, I hope you get to try this! And if you do, let me know how it goes!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Autumnal Comfort Food: Vegan MOFO Post 4

The other day I spied some adorable Delicata squash in the market and decided to bring one home to try. The evening I tried it out turned out the be one of those rare nights when I got creative in the kitchen and the resulting recipe actually tasted amazing! (What usually happens is that I taste it, think "huh," and eat it anyway, so as not to waste the food.)

I cut open the squash and scooped out the seed/mush part. After slicing it up, skin and all, I threw it into a glass pyrex pan and scoured the kitchen for other things to put in, as the squash looked a little bare and lonely. I thought of the Granny apples I'd bought which were a smidgen too sour for even my taste and realized that the sour might be good balanced by brown sugar. So I cut up one apple and threw it in. (Again, peel and all.)

That sweet potato over in the corner -- you know, the one that languishes in your own kitchen -- had been eying me for weeks. (Get it?) It looked a little scary, though, and seemed to be growing vines. It had apparently assumed I wasn't going to do squat with it and was planning its escape. I tentatively snagged off the growth, peeled it, sliced it open and -- exhale -- it was perfectly good. It got chopped into large pieces and thrown in.

I added maybe a Tablespoon of olive oil and two Tablespoons of brown sugar and mixed it all together. Into the preheated oven it went (425 degrees). And off I went to figure out what my next post would be.

Ten minutes later, I thought, "Walnuts!! That thing needs walnuts!"

I quickly chopped some up, opened the oven door, and carefully, oh-so-carefully, dotted the dish with them and stirred them so they'd get coated with the oil and sugar. I closed the door softy, turned around, and spied some pears that had finally ripened after well over a week. I cut one up, re-opened the door, and added them to the growing pile of food.

I didn't time it, but it was all ready in close to half an hour. (If you're going to do this, though, I'd put your timer on for 20 minutes and then check it every 5 minutes or so after that.) The whole house smelled like holiday. It was the scent that Yankee Candle would give their eyeteeth for, but never quite achieves. I just wanted to breathe in that smell permanently, in a therapeutic kind of way. You've got to try this, if only to get this aroma to permeate your home-sweet-home.

Fresh out of the oven and sizzling...

Is it dinner? Or is it dessert?

Then I whipped up a quick and simple massaged kale salad. You wash and rip up the kale (taking the woody stems off), throw on a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and some fresh lemon juice, and then use your hands to literally massage the oil into the leaves for about two minutes.  It will reduce in volume pretty quickly as the leaves become more pliable.

This is the kale, post massage.

I decided to add some nuts to the salad to satisfy that autumnal fat craving. Any toasted nuts would be good. I was strongly leaning towards sliced almonds, but the pine nuts won. When you toast these babies, DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT walk away from them. They're a splurge and it's much too easy to burn them. (I'm just sayin'.) Simply throw them into a small pan with no oil. None. They actually have oils in them that seep out pretty quickly and do the cooking for you. Turn the stovetop on medium to medium-high heat. 

Initially they look like this.

But in about a minute, you'll see the oils come out and they'll get shiny.

Every thirty seconds or so, just swish them around.

And when they look like this (slightly browned), you're good to go. They'll look like this in about four minutes or so.

I decided to throw and apple and some avacado on the salad too. Why not?

Speaking of apples, about ten years ago I lived in a little town in central Bolivia called Yotala. It was there that I learned one of life's most important lessons from my best friend Margarita Manzano (Spanish for "apple"). I will pass it on to you. I'm sure it will change your life as it changed mine. Here it is.

(dramatic pause)

Never pick the pretty fruit. 

Margarita (or Marga, as we all called her) lived on the same street as I and, together with her mother and sister, owned a small store in front of her house, which is how I met her passing by one day. They made the best bread around -- people would drive for miles on weekends to come buy their bread -- and one day she saw the strange pale gringa walking by and called me over to enjoy some bread with her. From then on, we were best buddies. I used to even go to her house on bread-making days and help them make the rolls to put into the enormous outdoor mud/clay oven.

Oh dear. I'm rambling and way off topic. Back to the point.

During orange season, I started to pick out some of the more fault-free fruits from her store to buy and take home. She watched my progress, then came over, shaking her head, and muttered, "You Americans. Always picking out the prettiest fruit. Don't you know that the best fruit is the ugly stuff?" She threw my perfect specimens back, grabbed one of the more scarred ones, sat my down at her small wooden table, and expertly began cutting the orange open. (Bolivian women can do magic with the seemingly most cheap of knives.) She handed me a dripping, sloppy piece of the fruit. The second the piece of sunshine hit my tongue, I'd realized what a fool I'd been. The pretty fruit had nothing on this.

To this day, as I pick fruit, I always look for the scarred pieces. Not bruised, mind you. But the ones covered with blemishes that ordinary folk see as unattractive. Never judge a book ... 

Here is a Honeycrisp, topped with blemishes.

And Kaci with the apple, just because.

Here is my final dinnerplate, complete with a magnificent (and simple) risotto I made from The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hestor.  (Get. This. Book.) The dinner was not only wonderful, but a great reward for my courage to take culinary chances, after so many past failures. :)

Finally, I'm going to throw some product placement at you, because I think it might make cleaning up a whole lot easier. Whenever I cook pine nuts, I always find the pan is stained a bit brown. The best way to get that off is to use this cleaner, Bon Ami. It's a scouring powder, but it does not test on animals and it doesn't have a strong odor. (When I used to use other scouring powders, I'd have to hold my breath, because the fumes made me feel a little lightheaded.) And it's the same cost as the other powders too. I absolutely love it. (And no, they are not paying me to say that. At least I don't think they are.) :)

Bon Ami -- a great scouring powder. Get it.
What sorts of make-it-up-on-the-spot recipes have you done that were winners?