30 July 2010

Vegetarian Pasta Salad

After the burning humiliation of my fluorescent curry, this quickly improvised pasta salad surprised us both with its improbable tastiness.
"What's this?" asked George, eyeing the casserole dish in the refrigerator.
"It's a special dish I just made," I replied, not meeting his eyes.
George shrugged and started forking pasta salad directly from the serving bowl into his mouth. His complete indifference to the shining ideals of civilization boggles the mind.
"Hey," he said, "this is actually good."
"Really?" I gaped.
"Yes." He continued to assist the influx of tasty bits into his gullet. I retasted the salad an hour later and found it, to be candid, delicious. You should try it.

If you are vegan, scrap the butter and ooze on a bit more oil.
If you are gluten-free, I recommend Tinkyada brown rice pasta instead of whole-wheat pasta.
If you scorn meatless dishes, why don't you just hunt down a buffalo, skin it, and dump it on top? Thanks for stopping by.

Summer Pasta Salad

8 oz. whole wheat pasta, preferably farfalle (bowties)
12 oz. artichoke hearts in oil in a glass jar (no canned artichoke, please), drained and rinsed
1/4 Cup thinly sliced shiso (or minty herb of your choice)
1/4 Cup finely chopped hazelnuts (or nut of your choice)
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon sweet cream butter

1. Cook pasta.
2. Drain pasta.
3. Mix pasta with everything else.
4. Chill for at least an hour.
5. Serve cold.

28 July 2010

Fluorescent Curry

I used to live with a nice family in Massachusetts and the lady of the house, Margaret, frequently cooked this curry. Or something like this curry. I remember hers as beguilingly brown and fragrant. Mine is fluorescent green and tasteless. Julia told me it would get better the next day. The next day it was blander. Today I blanketed my curry in fresh sliced garden herbs, and it blanded them too! This curry is hopeless. I think I added too much coconut milk.

Do you even want the recipe?
OK, here goes.

Chartreuse Curry
1. Place 1 chopped onion, 5 smashed and peeled garlic cloves, a huge bunch of clean fresh cilantro, and 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a blender or food processer. Process until mushy.
2. Cook in a fry pan for 5 minutes.
3. Add a spice mixture: 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, a pinch coriander, and some salt. Fry five minutes.
4. Add 2 chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of plain nonfat yogurt. Mix up. Fry until brown (er).
5. Then add the optional ingredients: 1 can coconut milk, 1 package cubed tofu, peas, snap peas, chopped vegetables, mushrooms, chickpeas, tempeh, or whatever you want. Heat up until tender.
6. Top with fresh lime juice or fresh ginger. Also optional.
7. Serve hot over rice.

15 July 2010

Tamago-Yaki and the Art of Sweetening the Savory

The Japanese add sugar to all sorts of foods that Americans consider savory. Sweet beans, for example, are part of at least half of all Japanese desserts: youkan, manju, daifuku mochi, anpan, and zenzai spring to mind, and there are many others.



Daifuku Mochi:



The sugar somehow lightens the experience of eating beans and transforms them from plain fare to a special treat. I don't think I experienced a savory bean the entire time I gobbled my way through Japan. Clearly, consensus has been reached on how to eat beans.

Similarly, I encountered as many sweet eggs as savory. While omu-raisu (omelette stuffed with rice and chicken), oyako-don (chicken and egg over rice), and chawan-mushi (a savory custard filled with hidden goodies) combine egg and meat in a savory duet—that I would never never eat—, plain eggs by themselves often receive the sugar treatment. In sushi restaurants, for example, you can buy tamago (egg) wrapped with seaweed over rice, and the tamago is sweet. So is the egg in futomaki (large vegetable rolls). In rice or noodle bowls with toppings of vegetables, meat, and egg strips, the egg tastes slightly sweet as well.

Sometimes it pays to try cooking things you considered a dark, earthy, or savory flavor with sugar or mirin. You could experiment with sweetening potatoes or mushrooms, broccoli or kale, or even brown rice. And to start you off, here is an easy way to cook sweet tamago-yaki.

A small fry pan
1 egg
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in pan. Beat egg with sugar. Add egg to pan. Cook into a round or rectangular omelette. Make sure both sides are fully cooked. Remove from heat and cool. Cut into thin strips. Add to salad, chilled noodle dishes, sushi, or rice bowls.


My mother loves fruit salad but hates smoothies. I am the reverse, except with Andy's smoothies because he puts granola in them! How gross is that?!

Yes, many fellows have the unfortunate opinion that smoothies are all about the nutrients or "bulking up," and they pour in protein powder or other bizarre additives like blue-green algae or spirulina or bee pollen. Then they pump iron and flex at themselves in the mirror. That's fine for them, but if food is all about nutrition for you, frankly I don't know why you are reading this blog.

I love smoothies because of their complex, sweet fruity flavor, their creamy cold texture (like milkshakes!), and the ease with which I can make it and then clean my blender. I used to eat a smoothie for lunch every day just because I craved something refreshing.

Everyone's got their own smoothie recipe, but here's mine, if you're interested. I almost never use the optional ingredients but George always does, and he even likes his smoothies without banana.

Frozen or fresh fruit, especially peaches, strawberries, and/or blueberries
1/2 peeled banana (frozen is OK)
yogurt for a fuller, more abrasive texture (optional)
a splash of orange juice to make it more acidic (optional)
Plain soymilk (I use Silk) filled in up to the level of the top of the fruit in the blender

You can also add peanut butter or chocolate syrup! But I almost never do, because I don't own those.

If you use anything frozen, you might have to use the Ice Crush setting on your blender first. After you pour out your smoothie, make sure to rinse out your blender immediately. This precaution will save you (a lot of labor later)(10x fast).

14 July 2010

Curry in a Hurry

Indian cuisine dominates the world of vegetarian food. To realize this for yourself, look around on various sites for vegetarian blogs. You will discover they are mostly written by Indians. My college roommate grew up in Madras, and eating with her every day (and disliking the appearance of the cafeteria meats) helped to push me toward vegetarianism. But if you look at my list o' blogs on the left, you'll see I don't follow any Indian blogs. Furthermore, with the exception of the occasional curry powder, turmeric, and cumin, you won't see Indian ingredients in my food. Considering how overwhelmingly Indian vegetarian food is, why the omission?

I'm so glad you asked. Your curiosity keeps me going! Also, you are a great listener, Faceless Hordes. Anyway, I never went to India, so I'm not sure what the home cooking there is supposed to taste like. Living and cooking and eating out in Japan for over a year, I know what it should taste like. I know that Japanese cooking requires relatively few staples, I know it's healthy, quick, and easy to clean up after, and I know that I like it. Plus, I read Japanese and I own a bunch of Japanese cookbooks in English and Japanese. So I cook Japanese food a lot.

This is not to say I don't love Indian food. I do.When Julia makes it for me, I gobble it right up and demand seconds. Julia has twice traveled to India. Her kitchen is full of Indian spices, ingredients, and cookbooks. From eating her tasty cookin', I learned that Indian food is a major undertaking. It takes time on the stove to develop the rich flavors; the (expensive) ingredients hog space in her pantry; and fresh goodies like paneer and curry leaves can be hard to come by. That's fine by Julia, who wants to make it all the time. But not for me. What I'm trying to tell you, Gentle Blog Scanners, is that unless you take only the most cursory dip into the fringes of Indian cuisine, you must commit to acquiring the resources and knowledge to pull it off. This is true of many other cuisines I love, like Ethiopian and Chinese.

Frankly, it's too much work for me, and my pantry has limited space. So I'm sticking to authentic Japanese food and American versions of everything else. When I crave Curry in a Hurry, I do this:

Buy a jar of premade curry-type sauce (see Tikka Masala by Seeds of Change above). There are a ton of these sorts of sauces in supermarkets all over. Check the ingredients to make sure they're all pronounceable.
Break out a pack of firm or medium tofu. Press the liquid out of it with a heavy object and drain it. Cut it into cubes. Sauté tofu in oil until golden.
Add sauce plus all other fresh, chopped vegetables I have lying around, except for peas. Simmer gently, covered. Five minutes before serving, add lots of frozen peas. Before putting on the table, add fresh chopped herbs.

Serve over rice with, if you like, a side of Everyfood Yogurt Sauce and possibly some fresh bread-type thing for mopping up the remains. Easy peasy.

12 July 2010


This Turkish dish won't taste great unless you pair it with Everyfood Yogurt Sauce. Then it will BLOW YOUR MIND. Or not. It's really up to your taste buds.

If you are new to eggplant you should know that it soaks up oil like nobody's business. I think that's why so many Turkish eggplant dishes that I've eaten are swimming in fruity, delicious olive oil. But what if you want the eggplant without the oil bath?

A year ago, George and I discovered the wonders of spray oil. And yes, we're still getting the hang of text messaging, thank you very much. I know we are behind the times, but seriously if you do not use spray oil you are missing out. This picture shows the spray oil George and I use. We like grapeseed oil because it's lightly flavored, has a high burning point (doesn't burn at high temperatures), and people say it's better for you than peanut or coconut oil. Who knows what's better for you, really? But so far grapeseed has been a useful, versatile oil. In my experience, spraying means that you need comparatively little oil to keep your food from burning. There's something about the even coating on the surface of the pan that works wonders. I especially notice the magic when I cook something that would otherwise stick to the pan, like dumplings, or soak up so much oil you'd feel sick eating it, like eggplant.

In conclusion, for this patlican recipe I barely used any oil. George expressed extreme dubiousness about using so little oil on eggplant, but he ended up really enjoying the patlican anyway. So live and learn and eat tasty patlican.

A final note: I didn't use any salt because I used tender small eggplants. Many people only have access to bitter big mama eggplants, so if that's what you're using, you need to sprinkle on a little salt after brushing the eggplant with lemon juice, and then you can rinse it off after the 30 minute wait. That should rinse away some of the bitterness. At least, that's what people say will happen.


juice of a lemon
Roughly 3/4 pound of eggplant, in small eggplants (or 1 big mama—see note above)
spray oil

1. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/2 inch thickness.
2. Place eggplants on a board. Brush each side with lemon juice. Turn off the slices and repeat.
3. Wait 30 minutes.
4. Heat up a fry pan. Spray with oil.
5. When hot, add a layer of eggplant slices. After 2 or 3 minutes, it should have browned. Flip over and brown the other side. Set aside and repeat until all eggplant slices are cooked. You should not have to keep adding oil, no matter how dry the pan looks.
6. Serve hot with Everyfood Yogurt Sauce. Or your cold and creamy sauce of choice.

Everyfood Yogurt Sauce

Bold and brazen as ever, I decided to cook three entirely new menu items for Shabbat dinner. Well, it wasn't that bold; only George and I had to eat our little experiment. Of course the meal was a triumph—for me, triumphs generally occur alone in a sealed chamber where no one can witness them. George made two amazing loaves of bread from scratch in only two hours (more on that later). I made a curry and a Turkish dish, Patlican. All three of these foods paired in the most gratifying way with a yogurt sauce out of Madhur Jaffrey's book, World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

The yogurt sauce I'm used to is raita, which requires cucumber, dill, and/or mint. It is Tasty Cool Goodness. But we had neither cucumber, dill, nor mint. Jaffrey's sauce ingredients were already in our pantry and there's a good chance you have them too. In retrospect, I think the mortar and pestle were overkill to pulverize one small garlic clove, but George enjoyed working out his aggressions that way, so more power to you if that's your weapon of choice. Smashing the clove with the flat of your knife blade and then mincing it, or crushing it with a garlic press will work too.

Everyfood Yogurt Sauce

1 Cup plain, nonfat yogurt (Stonyfield Farms works great)
1 clove garlic, beaten to a pulp or at least made small and juicy
a few shakes fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

See? I knew you had most of those ingredients.

1. Beat the yogurt with a fork or whisk until it is smooth and creamy.
2. Add all other ingredients.
3. Mix.
4. Chill.
5. Use a spoon.

Serve as a condiment with a tasty curry, or spoon over Patlican. Or sop up bread with it. Or dress a salad. Or a sandwich. Knock yourself out.

03 July 2010

Why, Evil Bugs, Why?

Hello, gentle readers. How have you enjoyed our seventh month so far? Are you looking forward to the fireworks and festivities?
Well, isn't that nice.

Oh, me? I've been living in INSECT INVASION HELL. Ants pour into the kitchen, feelers twitching for sugary treats. A few hours ago, moths descended upon an innocent bag of almonds in my pantry and built a moth theme park in its innards. These monsters lay eggs on anything in their path. And then their evil offspring dare to reach adulthood and ruin any food that's lying around.

I don't even want to go into the kitchen anymore. *Sigh* The dilemma of the gourmet vegetarian cook is mine. I am against killing animals. I don't like killing insects. George courteously escorts out the wayward spider or earwig that loses its way in our home. And yet, if at some point you don't kill ants or moths, they will take over your kitchen and you won't have any part of your home to yourself. At that point you might as well stop paying your mortgage and move out.

So I bought ant bait. Tomorrow I shall purchase moth bait. These paynim hordes shall die by my (merciless) hand. We will sanitize the kitchen, and after a suitable period of mourning, George will make a fruit pie. And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.


02 July 2010

Frozen Pizza Your Way

Tomatoes are flooding into my kitchen (via my garden). As good as they are plain or in sandwiches, I like to have variety in the food I eat. One easy way I use up a lot of vegetables is to buy a frozen cheese pizza, slice up the garden produce, arrange the slices artistically on top of the pizza, and bake according to instructions. Yesterday I took two garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced them to medium thinness, and covered the whole pizza with them. Then I took 5 cloves of very fresh garlic, peeled them, smashed them with the flat of a knife to get the garlicky juices flowing, and after a cursory chopping stuck them in between the tomato slices.

I read somewhere that you can save energy by sticking food in the oven before the preheating finishes. My pizza was supposed to take 8 to 10 mintues, so I stuck it in about 5 minutes early and baked it 12 minutes and it came out perfectly. The pizza was some of the tastiest I had ever eaten, so I highly recommend that you use your garden produce in this way.

I'm sure this brain-bending technique of mine would work equally well on vegan and gluten-free pizzas. Pizza for everyone!

The one and only milburn family pesto recipe

Hello and thank you to my millions of fans for your adoring replies on my last "what to cook for dinner" post. I apologize to those of you who did not receive a personal reply, however I've been very busy in the kitchen and the volume simply doesn't allow for individual responses. The following recipe, while unmeasured and often plagiarized, is 100% Milburn family authentic, unifluenced by any outside sources. As is brought to my attention by an adoring reader, "Milburn family authentic" in this case refers to a recipe developed by a Hyerle, who while not a Milburn by strict definition, managed to "raise" the two Milburn brats or at least keep them alive and mostly scarred until their late teens.

Awesome Basil Pesto:
To begin you will need
One (1) old fashioned meat grinder; cleaned, prepped, and clamped to the table. This is an integral aspect of this recipe and it would be dishonor to the recipe, the ingredients, and the Milburn family to attempt this with a food processor or G*d forbid, a blender. If you don't own one, ask your grandma or peruse your local antique shops.
One (1) beautiful bunch of basil. If the bunches are measly and small it is better to use two. The recipe is best adapted for the GIANT bunches of basil sold cheaply at the peak of basil season. Just in case some one somewhere (like Russia or Hawaii) is unclear on the fresh basil business...IT MUST BE FRESH BASIL. Frozen, dried or otherwise fouled basil is a waste of your time. Best to purchase it from a man with dreads at a farmers market in northern California. Enslave an unsuspecting family member to pluck leaves from stem and rinse throughly before beginning to grind. Few things are more dissapointing than gritty pesto.
See full size image

Five (5) small (roughly half (1/2) inch) cubes of Parmesan, or its lowly cheap domestic relative Romano.

Three (3) to Five (5) cloves of garlic, peeled. Do not buy pre-pealed garlic. This pesto is all about freshness, and some of the fantastic peppery garlic bite is lost soon after peeling.

One quarter (1/4) cup extra virgin olive oil. The pricer it is the better.

One quarter (1/4) cup pine nuts. If you either hate pine nuts or are hopelessly thrifty you may substitute walnuts with out any great loss of flavor.

Half (1/2) a lemon.

Once you have gathered the necessary ingredients, run the the basil, pine nuts, cheese and garlic through the grinder catching them in a small bowl on the other end. While turning the hand crank, shove large handfulls ofalternating ingredients into the grinder. Make sure to finish with basil so as not to leave a considerable portion of the more potent ingredients inside the grinder. the resulting product will be fluffy and dark and rather course. Do not be shocked if it is not as garish or as soupy as the typical commercial products. This is a true rustic style pesto.

Add the olive oil to this mixture and stir until everything is uniform. Keep an eye out for remaining pockets of unmixed cheese or nuts as they tend to cling together. Finally add the salt pepper to taste, and the lemon juice, which preserves the color.
Finally you may step back and observe the bountiful product of your labor. Do not be surprised or saddened that this bears little resemblance to lowly grocery store pesto, or inferior pureed recipes. The gentle pulverization of the leaves and spices maintains their fresh flavor while artfully wedding them in this superior pesto. The product you observe is sufficient for approximately one and one half (1.5) generously sauced pounds of pasta, although less if you are using angel hair or other small pasta variety which has a greater surface area to be covered.

I would be negligent if I failed to mention that due to the lengthy process, the universal hunger for pesto, and the short basil season, the Milburns preserve many or more containers of pesto in the freezer. Simply fill individual yogurt containers leaving only a scant 1/8th inch to cover containers with extra olive oil. The olive oil covering prevents oxidization and should fill the container completely such that the oil squishes over the sides slightly as the lid is secured. Each yogurt container is sufficient for one pound of pasta. This recipe is best increased by five (5) fold, and the extras saved. The process shall be continued through the warm months until enough containers have been saved to allow one per week for the cold and dreary non-basil portion of the calendar.

To the novice cook who has at last read the final paragraph after finishing the recipe and who now wrings his or her hands in distress crying "oh why, oh why did did i not make 5 batches of this heavenly creation?! Why has the unkind author waited until the final notes to deliver such wisdom?" To you I say "Thou art a FOOL" for she who proceeds to create without envisioning the minutest detail from beginning to end will continually blunder. Many fine ingredients shall be fouled by she who fails to read the recipe in full before beginning to cook.

For further and more authoritative notes about the harmfull aspects of food processors to pesto please read the following article

How to Make Pesto like an Italian Grandmother

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