The Gastronomist Manifesto

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Archive for the category “Vegan”

Celebrity Meat Snobs Can Go Tofuck Themselves

CAUTION: This post contains a fair amount of vulgar language and no recipe. I don’t know who follows me or what your personal line of decency is, but things get a little R-rated today. This may turn you off to beef wellington.

 

I like meat just fine. I don’t eat a lot of it compared to most Americans. I like tofu too and certainly consume more of it than the median level in this country. I also consume a fair number of shows related to cooking. But what I find completely inedible…

“Guuuuurrrrrr brrrrggg…. something about how gross tofu is. Vegetarian-option?! Here’s a carrot!”

-Sayeth numerous celebrity chefs

I get the whole macho image thing just fine. We all get it. No one has ever deeply questioned why meat is a slang term for a penis. The real connundrum is why people in a community that seems to cherish non-normative passions and behaviors, celebfaces suddenly develop WASP-y fratboy Tourette’s the moment “vegetarian” gets mentioned. Your cracks at the non-meat eaters echoes what I heard from my conservative aunts and uncles when I was sixteen, for whom salad was any sort of plant dressed in mayonnaise. Edgy!

“Tofu! Bland, white and flavorless!!” Yeah, you know what else is? A potato. And Americans consume the ever-living shit out of them and every gourmet raves about ’em. I think the real problem with these Star Chefs is that they simply just can’t cook outside of their petty little comfort zone. Yes, I’m calling you out… or I would if any of ’em read my trivial food blog.

If you can’t make tofu taste good, you suck or you’re not trying. It’s a blank canvass for sure, which is why anyone who’s cooking with inspiration can make it shine. And of all the “foodies” I know, vegetarians are very well-represented, which is believable as they’re obviously commited in some way to thinking about the food we grow, fix and consume. And given that a healthier, more eco-friendly sort of diet for America has solid numbers to support it, some of the top food minds in the media maybe should stop circle jerking it onto their beef wellingtons for a hot second, learn how to transform bland product to something tasty, and cut the really played-out veg-o-phobia.

 

My (Famous) Spicy Coconut Hash

I used to make this all the time for people I’ve lived with. At least once a week. It was rather popular, not to mention cheap for us college students.

For a single serving breakfast for myself I am taking:

1/2 russet potato, diced (I hate using half because they store poorly, but so it goes)
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup of black beans (not pictured, but when I make this for more people it’s worth adding for color, taste and good health)
cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds
half a handful of shredded coconut
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Dice your vegetables.

2. On a medium heat add oil in a thin layer to a wide frying pan. When hot add your onions and your spices. I recommend whole seeds if you have them–cumin is almost essential; mustard, coriander, fenugreek also add a nice “pop,” but you can substitute powder or even just curry powder. Either way, add them right away so they have time to open up and develop. Give it about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the potato and jalapeno (if using.) I would lower the heat. My electric stove has a 1-10 heat level and I cooked this on level 3. You have two basic choices with hash, low and slow or hot and with lots of oil. I prefer the first. Takes a long time, but doesn’t come out slippery. Stir frequently to prevent the potatoes from sticking.

4. Cooking time is going to vary by the size of your dice on the potato. After about 15 minutes I start testing pieces. When you are satisfied, crank the heat up to medium high and add the coconut, green pepper, lemon, tomato and black beans. Here, it’s like wok cooking, you want to bring those flavors out fast, but keep stirring or you’ll have potato crust on your pan. Just a couple minutes is all.

5. Season with salt and pepper. The red drizzle in my picture is sriracha sauce. If you like heat it adds a nice brightness too.

It’s been years and years since I made this but it is just as amazing as I remember. Sort of like hash browns you’d expect in the Caribbean. Now I remember why people were always begging me to make this.

Also, this is a totally original dish. I’m afraid that if I Google it I’ll find other people have done the same; but, this is one of my prouder inventions.

Also, also, I need to get a camera that is able to focus on an inanimate object  in plain daylight. All my pictures look like crap here.

Weatherbeaten: Sunshine Soup

It’s known to rain in Portland, Oregon. A lot, perhaps. Today I got caught in what is probably the worst torrential I’ve seen in my 1+ year here. A metal “Park Here” sign, with about two feet long feet holding it up, was blown half the way across the street. My umbrella is broken, the metal of the stem snapped right at the base of the parasol–I mean bent and then ripped open. Figuring I know have pneumonia I better start the hot soup and tea fast.

Sunshine Soup

1 golden beet, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup of green peas
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ginger powder
1 dash of cinnamon
water (see below for amount)

1. Prepare all your vegetables ahead and have them ready except for the peas. In a pot on low-med heat add oil or melt butter to gently coat the bottom. Add the onions, garlic and carrot. Cook for about 8 minutes, lowering the heat if browning starts to occur. Next add the beet, and stir for two more minutes.

2. Pour in water, enough to just submerge everything, and turn the heat to high. At this point you can add all the seasonings right in, plus honey and lemon. When the water comes to a boil, lower it to a simmering temperature.

3. After about 30 minutes you can start testing pieces of beet for doneness (just pull one out, blow on it and bite.) Continue cooking until the vegetables are soft and tender. Then add the peas and continue cooking until they are done as well.

4. The soup is done, but an optional step is to use a thickener, which I did. I pulled the soup off the heat until it was steaming but off boiling temperature. I think started sprinkling a little bit of one tablespoon of flour off the edge of the spoon in a thin layer, then stirring quickly; repeating slowly until all the flour is in. If you just dump the flour in, or do when there is a boil, it will just thicken into lumps.

Pretty easy recipe to make. And the bloody irony of it all is, as you can see by the picture, by the time it was done the sun was shining. Damn you! Weather gods!

Off Hiatus: Hippie Salad

Broccoli Romanesco Con Besciamella Arancio

No idea if I got the Italian even remotely right there, nor is this an Italian dish in any sense. But mmmmmmmm… did I enjoy this. This maybe the best broccoli of my life. And as I said in my last post, features the unique and mathematically beautiful features of broccoli romanesco–more or less just your average broccoli with only a slight passing for cauliflower too. And as promised, I made it totally vegan.

First thing you need to do is steam the broccoli. That’s just a matter of a pot of  boiling water with a steaming basket. Ask you can see, I quartered a carrot too, mostly for color but why not, right?

That sauce you see on the broccoli and the plate is just a standard bechamel sauce with the addition of the juice of a blood orange. Bechamel and its base of a roux I feel can sound intimidating, I imagine, being so French-y but conceptually it’s very simple. First you need a fat, butter is the standard, but I was going vegan so I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan on medium heat (and aim your medium towards low, depending on your stove, burning is the greatest danger here.) When the oil heated I tossed in a heaping tablespoon of regular flour (plus maybe another small half, this wasn’t a good measuring day.) Just as the flour goes in you whisk–with a whisk or a fork–the ever-loving crap out of it. Do this until the oil and flour are mixed into a single substance and you notice some *slight* browning. Then start adding soy milk (or regular milk, either way) a bit at a time, still whisking your ass off, until it coats the back of a spoon nicely.

Comrades! What does it mean “coats the back of a spoon?” This is a common trick for getting sauces to a nice, velvety consistency. As you go you can take an ordinary spoon and run it through your sauce, then pull it up, turning the “bowl” of the spoon upside down. If the spoon is evenly coated–no glaring lumps–good start. Then draw your finger across the spoon, if the sauce holds form, doesn’t run into the gap created where you parted it like the Red Sea. You’re good. Also, as always, just use good instinct and add more milk or keep cooking to reduce liquid content if it seems too dry or too wet. A low heat and lots of stirring will save you.

Finally, at the end, take an orange (I used blood oranges because they’re in season and I love the color, but navel, tangerines, mineolas, etc. are all most exceptable) and juice it it. Add the juice to the sauce, mix to incorporate and serve on your broccoli or other steamed vegetable right away.

I like my work here because the citrus really adds the perfect flavor to the sort of sulphurous and semi-bitter flavor of brassica vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, but without the fat and over-powering taste of cheese. A bechamel sauce also lets you skip on the dairy completely while keeping the texture and much of the taste of a creamy sauce. I give this one an A.

Slow Week Going

Been trying to account for each penny spent this month, which hasn’t lead to a lot of grandoise kitchen experiments. But I made this yesterday and I thought it was worth at least a mention, if only to serve as reminder that I am still eating food

These purple potatoes made an appearance on my Peruvian steak night, and the co-op by me still has them on special so I nabbed a bunch to roast. For the potatoes, it’s just laying them on a baking tray (preferably metal for more even heating) in  a 425 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the potato size.

For an accompaniment I just made a fast relish out of onions–a yellow onion sliced about the width of a fingernail–which was slathered in olive oil and roasted sitting on top of the potatoes. Chopped it up with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil in mostly equal parts. I also threw a frozen veggie burger in the oven in time to go with this. Was pretty good, but nothing to rock your socks off. But it does reveal my love for one culinary thing: relish.

I have checked dictionaries and seems there really isn’t a very specific term for what counts as a “relish,” but it’s also not just the chopped up pickles as you see in stores or associate with hot dogs. A relish is basically any fruit or vegetable prepared as a condiment to another dish. I have no problems with traditional cucumber pickles in any form, but there are also a lot of relishes that I also adore. Red onions marinated in red wine vinegar and chilis make a great, “cooling” addition to many Mexican dishes. A fast “pickle” of carrot and daikon in vinegar and sugar make the fabulous addition to the classic, Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Cwikla (my Polish keyboard set up seems non-functional, but it’s pronounced “ch’veek-wah”) is a relish of minced beets and horseradish that I’m also highly partial too and owns the crap out of ketchup on hamburgers.

I think the whole concept of a relish is very neglected. In a country where obesity is a national crisis and everyone wants to talk about eating more plants, why not the relish? It’s not the focal point of a dish, but uses the subtle flavors of plants and seasonings to enhance the protein or whatever main staple of a full meal. Along with a side dish it can double your fruit and vegetable intake even if you’re not a fan of plants. And the varieties are quite endless; tart, savory, sweet… it’s a creative cook’s free form design!

And coming later today, speaking of things that are good for you, I’ve seen these at my co-op regularly and I was finally tempted to buy:

Brassica! Romanesco broccoli! Another thing about me, I am sort of a math geek, so a food that perfectly resembles a fractal cannot help but earn my admiration. I don’t want to chop or break its form though, and the only way I’ve eaten broccoli straight up was when my family slathered it in Velveeta. For reasons of want and necessity, I want to dress it with something vegan without resorting to the stand-by vegan substitutes–should you follow this blog regularly you might note on my vegan entries that I am not a fan of “substitution.” So that is my culinary task for the day.

Purple-Orange Salad

One advantage to living in Oregon is closer access to California produce.  And one advantage of this time of year are blood oranges!

So at the store today I just wanted an easy, light salad for lunch. In these situations I usually will wander the produce department looking for things that seem interesting, well-priced and in good quality. And there… today…. were one of my favorite fruits in the world–the blood orange. If you’re unfamiliar with these, they are produced in Italy, are mostly available this time of year and they are…


PURPLE! Vibrantly purple too. Also, sweet and delicious.

I also saw dandelion greens that we’re cheap, not terribly fresh, but I knew how to crispen them up (more on that in a moment.) Dandelions are another food a lot of people are familiar with because they’re mostly known and hated as the most oppressive weed of them all. But here’s the thing, dandelions are weeds because they were first food. In Europe dandelions have been eaten for ages, used medicinally and naturally European settlers brought this with them to America. And we all know what can happen when you introduce a non-native plant to an ecosystem (not that your lawn is in any sense, an “ecosystem.”)

Dandelions have a rather definite bitterness to them, a bit like escarole with a deeper, plant-y flavor. Fortunately, a great way to cut that bitterness down so that it’s subtle is to add sweet… like orange juice. And it didn’t occur to me until I got home that I’d bought: purple oranges, orange carrots and purple-veined greens, plus had purple cabbage in the fridge. So it just turned into:

How to make:

1/2 of dandelion greens, rinsed and dried.*
1 medium-sized carrot, sliced or julienned
1 loose handful of finely shredded red cabbage
(optional) thin-slices of red onion

*if any greens you have are a bit wilted, but not turning brown/expelling liquid; give them 5 minutes soaking in cold, cold water.

These things just get cut into salad-sized pieces. Next you need a quick vinaigrette of:

the juice of one blood orange
about a teaspoon/dash of yogurt, sour cream or tahini (vegan version.)
salt and pepper
olive oil, or any dressing oil you may have

First juice the orange. The easiest way to do this is to cut it in half and squeeze with your other hand catching seeds as the juice runs through your fingers. Or just juice straight into the bowl and pick the seeds out. Add the yogurt/sour cream, salt pepper and stir. Why not use dijon mustard like most? For one, mustard and orange juice; second the creaminess also tempers the bitter greens; it sharpens the color of the blood oranges. Now you SLOWLY! add olive oil and whisk (whisk or a fork) until you’ve doubled the size of the dressing 1:1 ration. Toss this with the vegetables in a bowl and go.

Again, breaking with tradition of a usual dressing. 1:1 ratio is no way to make a vinaigrette in a classic way. However, these are sweet oranges and not strong vinegar so obviously I don’t need to drown them in oil. Another tip is to actually toss the salad. Salad dressing advertisements pour dressing and serve as presentation; this is great if you want to taste nothing but dressing at first, then have raw greens on the bottom. Final word on this, another way to make a vinaigrette is to add all your items to a small, clean, glass jar and shake vigorously. I don’t find this easier, but if you have trouble coordinating a whisk and slow poor, it works just as well.

Poverty Food Challenge!

So it’s the end of the month, I have a moth-eaten bank account balance and jack-shit in my fridge. Basically, hard to run a food blog when you can’t afford any fucking food, am I right? But all is not lost. I still have things in my pantry and kitchen and I am nothing if not resourceful. So here is an inventory of what I have to work with…


1 jar of crappy marinara sauce, 1 onion, 1 purple potato, peanut butter, brown rice and frozen broccoli stems (plus an assortment of spices and condiments.)

Now, my challenge to myself is to figure out the best possible configuration for these ingredients and make a dish before the afternoon is over–and hunger compels me to start eating bars of soap–that is respectable for the high standards I have for this blog. This is sort of like Iron Chef: Broke-Ass Challenge–“poor-met cuisine.” Allez la cuisine!

First Post. Tonight: Peanut Butter and Jelly Tacos!

It has been suggested to me over the years once in a while by friends that I should start a food blog. But I kind of have the impression that having a food blog is like how people all wanted to have SUVs in the 1990s;  the number of people who think they need one is much smaller a ratio than those who actually should have them. Another analogy might be people’s pictures of their pets, a thing more people want to share than there are people who actually want to see it. But I’m having, because until now I’ve just been sharing recipes and cooking experiments on Facebook, which is just too frustrating with the way things display plus the annoyance of Facebook’s less-than-mediocre interface.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY TACOS!

That’s right, you heard me. I had been thinking about the use of jellies and marmalade in savory cooking and this idea just popped to mind, why not use jalapeno jelly, a south-east Asian-esque peanut butter concoction and make tacos?

To make this you will need these ingredients and some good sense of portion because I didn’t do any measuring.

corn tortillas
1 jar of jalapeno jelly
peanut butter
3cups of cooked rice (brown or white)
red cabbage
carrot
onion (go with your preference for what you like raw – I picked yellow)
green apple
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp of green curry paste (adjust to heat preference or sriracha could do fine)
1 tbsp of lime juice
cilantro, if you don’t have the “it tastes like soap” gene (which is an actual gene, FYI.)

First, get the rice cooking. If you have a bit of turmeric  add just a dash for color.

Next, get your peanut butter and a small bowl. Add the peanut butter to the bowl. I’m guessing I’d just just shy of a half a cup followed by the lime juice. Mince your ginger* and to the bowl along with the curry paste. Mix together, adding more lime or water if it’s too thick to mix, however, this is a spread and not a sauce so don’t let it get runny. This can just sit while the rice cooks to let the flavors mingle.

*Advice comrade: To mince ginger the easy way. One you have the skin off and a piece approximately the size of a soda bottle cap either place it on the cutting board and smash it with the flat-side of the chef’s knife and smash it, or if you’re not comfortable smacking a sharp knife, putting the ginger between cling film or wax paper and crushing it with something like a can of tomatoes works just as well. This will not only make it easier to mince, but smashing breaks the cell walls of the ginger root releasing a lot more flavor. Also works on garlic and even fresh herbs.

Once your rice is or is close to done, start prepping your vegetables. Best thing is to shred and julienne. Cabbage, apples and onions should be done with a knife. I think the large setting on a four-sided cheese grater do better for carrots, daikon and firmer vegetables. What I wrote down is what I used, but any vegetables you like can go in. Just keep it raw if you can, you’ll want the crunch.

Organize a station for setting up the tacos. Heat the tortillas in a microwave real quick to keep them pliant (5 sec for each tortilla. ) Spread your peanut base across the middle of the taco. Next lay down the jalapeno jelly. Rice and vegetables plus cilantro and you’re good.

Advice, comrade: I personally found my tacos were sweeter than I’d expected at first, but that didn’t bother me at all. Marinated onions would’ve been good. If you wanted to add meat to this I think you could really go just about anywhere. Grilled meats would all be perfect; this would also make a killer summer party meal. If you want to make it tasty and sound totally horrible, trade tortillas for nacho chips, use chopped cooked white fish, make the peanut sauce runny and just go with Peanut Butter, Jelly and Fish Nachos.

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