Sunday, April 10, 2011

Maybe I do have willpower?

I did it! I ate out and I ate vegan. I have to say I wasn't the least bit tempted, even when my fellow diners told me they wouldn't tell on me. I passed up yummy chicken wings and stuck to my salad rolls and rice noodles in spicy, sweet sauce.

I've passed up several opportunities to partake of truly delicious looking food this past week, but for some reason turning them down has been easy. Perhaps I am getting more vitamins but I have zero cravings. Before this I would go to the candy bowl at least once a day and scavenge for snacks or leftovers.

Today is the last day of my official turn as a vegan, but I think I'm going to continue on...can't think of a good reason not to?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vegan Day One

I made it thru day one (almost day 2) and I'm surprised how easy it was. It helped that I did a lot of research and planned out a menu and snacks. I even passed up a free Baja Fresh lunch.
I guess part of the ease is our diet tends to be plant based--Mike doesn't eat red meat and isn't a fan of cheese. For breakfast I had my usual muesli with cut up banana, but instead of regular mix I substituted in soy milk. Easy! However, I missed my luscious half and half in my coffee.
Luckily I made tempeh stirfy over the weekend and had that as leftovers along with some cashews and popcorn for an afternoon snack. I have to say, I love nuts so much, but I tend not to eat them since they are so high in fat and calories.
Deborah Madison is one of my favorite chef and her recipes are not only amazingly delicious but primarily vegetarian and easy to make vegan. For dinner I made a recipe that is destined to go in our rotation for a while: Buckwheat linguine with French lentils, carrots and chard (pictured above). Simply amazing. It's from her The Greens Cookbook.
Day one verdict: Completely satisfied and not missing dairy or meat AT ALL.
(And no weird digestive issues...yet.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vegan Challenge and this has nothing to do with Oprah

Over plates of roasted chicken and grilled steak topped with whipped pork fat, I announced to my dinner guest that I was going to go vegan for a week starting on Monday. Her response was not what I expected, "That's so cool! Were you inspired by Oprah?"
So why am I doing it?
I just finished reading "On a Dollar a Day" which chronicles a couple's experiment to better understand food poverty facing thousands of Americans firsthand. Very eye opening and highly recommended. The couple is vegan which is a lifestyle I don't think I could ever adopt. While I don't eat a lot of meat, I love cheese and there is nothing more perfect than fresh eggs from Ava, ZsaZsa or ES. Just seems so restrictive and not very fun. But maybe I just don't understand veganism because I've never tried it, right? So I decided to try it out, just for one week.
I'm going vegan starting on Monday armed with some rocking recipes from Veganomicon (thank you, Kathy Lee!). I'll be posting recipes and reaction to this new temporary lifestyle.
If you are vegan and have recipes or tips and tricks to share, please don't be shy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making Stock, the Julia Child Way

For our New Year's Day dinner, I am making stuffed veal breast. I couldn't turn down the butcher's offer to keep the bones, so I hurried home to make stock. While I've made basic chicken stock from a leftover roasted chicken, I had some time so I brought out my "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook. Who else could tell me more than I ever wanted to know about making stock than Julia Child!

Before I jump into the process, first lesson: stock is supposed to be clear. The cloudiness comes from the fat and scum (unpleasant but an accurate description) incorporating into the stock when allowed to boil. Instead, stock should simmer very slowly "just a bubble or two of motion at the surface."

Second lesson: never cover your simmering stock completely. Leave an inch or so open to let the steam escape, otherwise it will sour.

Third lesson: you can extend the life of your stock in the fridge by reboiling every 3 - 4 days. Not sure which is more work - remembering to defrost my stock in time for use, or remembering to boil it twice a week? I am trying the freezing route.

Fourth lesson: keeping your stock clear is hard. Maybe impossible? For this attempt, I definitely failed! But not to worry, Julia explains how to clarify it on the chance that I want to serve "a rich homemade consommé, jellied soup or aspic." Simply by beating egg whites into cold stock, then heating to just below simmer for 15 minutes, "the egg white globules dispersed into the stock act as a magnet for all the minute cloudy particles. These gradually rise to the surface, leaving a crystal-clear liquid below." For now, I am leaving it as is. :)

So, to make "fonds blanc" or white stock from veal bones, I first blanched the 2 lbs. of bones I had. Turns out veal releases a tremendous amount of scum so Julia recommends a quick boil, drain and rinse to remove much of the scum.

Back in the pot they go, covered with water by 2 inches, brought to a simmer, skimming any remaining scum as necessary. Then, I added a quartered onion, the leafy tops of my celery and a bouquet garni of herbs (thyme, bay leaf, parsley sprigs, two unpeeled garlic cloves tied up in cheesecloth) and 2 tsp. salt.

Now, the way Julia describes it, "my taste should convince me that I've simmered the most out of my ingredients" to know that the stock is done. After 5 hours, I was not confident in my taste as I am so used to heavily salted store bought stock, but I can tell you it has a nice rich flavor. If I had doubts, I could boil it again to evaporate some of the water content and concentrate the flavor.

When removed from the heat and cooled, I refrigerated the stock overnight. After removing the hardened fat on the surface, I strained into a glass jar and it's ready to go! Now, back to the kitchen to get started on my stuffed veal breast.

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2011 is full of culinary adventures and good eats.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Have you heard of a purple carrot?

Me neither. I also didn’t know that carrots come in lots of colors including white, yellow, red and purple.

I happened along this blog, which cited the Carrot Museum Website in the UK. I was surprised to learn that some think the reason carrots are predominately orange today is thanks to the Dutch, as an attempt to honor William of Orange who led the struggle for Dutch independence. In reality, I think this is another example of how mass production has led to the homogenization of our food.

I thought that I’d have to wait till next summer to scour the famer’s markets and talk to my CSA provider about finding these varieties, but to my surprise (and the lady next to me in the produce section when I squealed) today in the produce section of my local Town and Country were purple, yellow and white carrots!

They are approximately the same price as “regular” organic carrots and taste like them too! But they’ll add a lovely color to the Rabbit √† la Moutard I am making tomorrow night.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sausage Fest 2010!

Last weekend Kenneth and I joined our friends, Ben, an experienced Italian chef, and Carly, his trusted sous chef, and lovely host, on a whirlwind journey of making our own sausages!

It started with 20 pounds of pork shoulder from our local Cash and Carry, that Ben chopped into 1-inch cubes, and froze for 30 minutes. Then, we fed it through the meat grinder (see the one we used here) into a large pan, where we added the spices and mixed well. We split the meat into two batches, one seasoned with Ben's family recipe (no family secrets given away here), and one that we made up (so I am happy to share): salt, pepper, fresh garlic and red chili pepper flakes. To make sure we had the right proportion of seasoning, we fried some up! I love that about cooking - eat as you go. :)

Using the same appliance, with the sausage stuffer attachment, we threaded on the casing and filled it with the ground pork/spice mixture, tying it off at both ends.

Let me take a minute to talk about the casing. The larger size sausages (think bratwurst) are made from pig intestine. The smaller sausages (think breakfast) are sheep. To my surprise, you can get these from the meat counter at Whole Foods! So, I had to ask the guy - how often do people come in and buy casing? His response, and the full conversation left me speechless, often (he claims it is a Seattle thing). In fact, he just made 50 lbs. of sausage at his home that weekend! When asked what kind? Bear. That's right people, bear, and he claims it is delicious! But, his favorite is a combination of pork and elk.

Back to our own experience... Once the sausage was filled in its casing (which requires more skill than you might imagine), we twisted every other segment to create the sausage ropes you often see at the butchers. Sections of links were cut off to package and freeze, or give away.

Our hard work, and 3+ hours of time paid off immediately, as Ben fried up the sausages with onions and peppers for a delicious dinner.

I was never a big fan of sausages (much to Kenneth's disappointment), but knowing how it was made, and what went into it, really changed that. On top of that, this experience supports my plan of someday joining a meat co-op/CSA, where I would have a share of local, organic beef and/or pork. One step closer from farm to table!

Thank you Ben and Carly!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Salad Burnett and More Beets

Salad Burnett has been a new one in our CSA this summer; it's a fern-like herb that has a slight flavor of cucumber. It is apparently a member of the rose family, and can stay green all winter long (I notice it also lasts a lot longer in my fridge than other cut herbs). Here's a particularly useful column on it.

I've used it a variety of ways: chopped it up and added it to my squash as I grilled it, included it in my herb butter and baked it on some Halibut, and added it to a vinaigrette for green salad. No real unique uses, but I think it is a fun complement to the usual herb lineup. :)

As the blog title promises, when a big bunch of beets came in our CSA a few weeks back, I decided to give the Cooking Light Beet and Fennel Soup recipe I found a try. Overall, it was very easy to make and tasty. Though, I would recommend it as a starter as frankly, there's only so much beet one should have in a single meal. :) If hosting a dinner party, you could make ahead and serve it chilled.

The only changes I made was using a large shallot instead of a yellow onion, and just using lemon juice instead of vinegar (taste as you go, less was probably needed).