Wednesday, November 30, 2005

garlicky mung beans

mung beans. isn't that just an awful name for a food? awfully close to dung beans, if you ask me.

mung beans, mung beans, so green and well-hung dung beans....oops, wrong song. what i meant to say was that you can't judge a book by it's cover, a dunce by it's cap, a puff-daddy by his lame-ass rap. that's what i meant to say. which brings us to mung beans, forever in my mind rhymed with dung beans. do not be fooled by their simplicity and humble nature for they are noble and almighty and tasty too. this is one of my favorite simple dishes, garlicky mung beans. be forewarned that i use a lot of garlic (two fat cloves) in this dish, and i use it raw, though i suppose you could use less...

there is no recipe per se but simply a few guidelines, the first of which is to soak your dung, i mean mung, beans. i always (time allowing) soak my delicate beans and pulses (mungs, lentils, etc.) for at least two, preferably more like four, hours prior to cooking. this allows them a chance to get a little rehydrated and cuts down on the cooking time. less cooking time equals greater probability that i will be paying attention when it comes time to take them off the stove. it also means a gentler simmer that helps avoid the breakdown of the outer seedcoat that results in mush. so in the morning soak your mung beans. in the afternoon put them in a pan with about an inch of water to cover and salt that water until it tastes like the sea. bring to a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes and remove from heat when they're just soft. drain and toss with lemon juice and fresh pressed garlic, adding salt to taste if necessary. you can also add a bit of your favorite oil, if you like, but i find that they don't really need it if you reincorporate just a teeny bit of the bean cooking water back in. handle them carefully while they are hot as they will be fragile and more likely to fall apart. taste again once the beans are cooled as the seasonings may have to be adjusted. serve chilled or at room temperature.

if you haven't tasted mung beans try them, like mikie (of life cereal fame) you just might like them. they are kinda like a cross between a lentil and a pea and have a creamy texture if cooked just right. but they are soooo easy to overcook into a gruel fit only for the most ascetic of vegans, so watch carefully.

Monday, November 21, 2005

hoshigaki (dried persimmons)

persimmon season is here and madly, truly i'm trying to find a way to preserve my stash of hachiya persimmons (fuyus must, according to the first law of bunnyfoot, be eaten raw). i know about freezer jam, but my freezer is already way too jammed already to accommodate any more jim-jammy-jam. i've scoured the net looking for water-bath hachiya jam recipes but there is a dearth of information out there. which makes me think that maybe no one preserves them for some good reason that eludes me. obachan recently made some fuyu jam but noted that most of its distinctive persimmon-y flavor was lost in the process. being the greedy-guts that i am, i want more persimmon-y goodness, not less!

so i called up my moms, who is probably the ultimate greedy-guts when it comes to persimmons, to ask for some advice. at this moment, moms has, hmmm, maybe sixty pounds of fuyus stockpiled in her garage. her interpretation of disaster provisions.

moms agreed that she hadn't really heard much about persimmon jam but that maybe it was an old-time american tradition that she didn't know about. she then mentioned that in japan they dry the hachiyas. and this brought back a memory from the year i spent living in osaka with a crazy, haiku-writing obachan (my obachan, no relation to aforementioned persimmon-jamming obachan).

early one chilly fall morning i was awoken from my small, coffin-sized bed, by a stealthy creaking out on my front porch. thinking it might be, i don't know, some kind of cute and furry japanese anime cartoon animal or a staggering salaryman too drunk to find his way to his own front porch (robert downey jr. style), i popped my head out to the window to investigate. and there she was, bathed in that golden-orange glow that the insane radiate like a halo, my eccentic ol', headstand practicing, haiku writing obachan. balanced on a rusty three legged stool. hanging garlands of peeled persimmons from the rafters. from inside the house it resembled some crazy seventies-style beaded curtain, sans beads, plus persimmons. i had no idea what she was doing and was pretty skeptical when she informed me that these fruits, after sitting out in the elements, would turn into something not only edible but delicous as well. "oh, they'll just rot and the flies will come," i cynically thought to myself. the weeks passed and i waited for my prophecy to come true. every morning i'd pop my head out the window and assess the rot. and every day they changed. they shriveled. they browned. and then a layer of powdery white stuff covered their surfaces. "a hah!" i thought to myself, "i was right - rotten through and through". at that point obachan dragged out her trusty old three legged stool and ceremoniously unstrung the shriveled little fellers, offering me the first taste. for a second the thought crossed my mind that perhaps this was all a complicated ploy to get rid of the free-loading relative via an innocuous case of persimmon-poisoning, so i politely insisted that she should have the honor of the first bite. and she did. and then i did. and it was good. it was very good. it was, in fact, delicious. pure persimmon through and through. intense. concentrated. perfect.

but that was a long time ago and age, alcohol and recreational drug use have taken it's toll on my spotty memory, making me forget all about dried persimmons until moms mentioned it again. she also reminded me that she'd tried, decades ago, to dry some herself while living in the "silicon valley" and the juicy fruits just rotted on the string. well, san francisco has a different microclimate and maybe, just maybe, there is a chance of success for this great hoshigaki experiment.

should you wish to try this at home be sure to use hachiyas (the bitter ones you can't eat until they're super falling apart soft) that are a nice bright orange but not yet soft. try to find ones that have intact stems in the shape of a T. this is how you will hang them. peel and skin the fruit, leaving the stems and calyx intact. get a piece of thick string and knot several of the fruit onto each string by the T-shaped junction in the stems. make sure the fruit are not touching each other and hang out to dry in a a spot that gets some sun and some wind. they say you should massage the fruit every few days to help evenly distribute the sugars and wrinkles (like kobe beefsteak cow). they should turn brownish and shrivel and finally a thin coating of whitish stuff should cover the surface. hopefully this will sugar (yay!) and not mold (boo-hiss!). they are then ready to eat.

i will update you once my little persimmons have rotted and made themselves host to flies and maggots, which almost inevitably they shall. in the meantime, the la times and the sacramento bee both have interesting articles on this classic japanese food preserving technique.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

weekend cat blogging #24

the king serenely gazes down upon his subjects from atop his carpeted perch.

Friday, November 18, 2005

roasted red pepper, basil, green olive and "sausage" vegan pizza

how can it be pizza if there ain't no cheese?!! wouldn't that be flat bread? or focaccia? or some other weak-in-the-knees, braces-with-headgear-sportin, narrow-shouldered, clammy palmed, cry-baby flour yeast and water product? heck no, i say, in my best fake oregonian drawl. not only can it still be rightfully called pizza, it can me durn tasty to boot. and if you screw up on your pizza dough it just might chew like aforementioned boot.

here is a lil' feller i baked up the other night. a can of plum tomatoes in sauce (trader joe's .89 cents) simmered down with salt and onion powder, italian seasonings and fresh, raw garlic until thickened. pour over the dough in a uniform layer. saute up some gimme lean sausage flavor, adding extra fennel, garlic and hot pepper - or use the real thing if you are a carnivorous bugger. sprinkle this over the sauce. scatter a whole load of basil over the "sausage" and strips of freshly (they're all over the farmers market here in sf right now) roasted red pepper over the basil. for good measure i topped the pie with sliced green olives and more minced garlic. i'll bet if you sniff real hard you can smell me right from your computer.

the real key is to not skimp on the thick tomato-y sauce-y part. also key is to not use that yeast you've been carting around through four changes of residence and one change of country. you might notice my pie appears to be of the thin crust type, but be not fooled. it was supposed to be of the other, thicker, heartier variety. sadly, it seemed that most of my yeastie buddies were somewhat lethargic and worn out after so many years of travelling. at least that's what i think it was. my cobbler's fingers are crossed that my leatherette touch has not extended all the way to pizza dough!

anyone have a bunnyfoot-proof, i mean fool-proof recipe for the best pizza dough ever? oh, and by the by, i tried some old sourdough pizza crust recipe i picked up from somewhere in the internet-o-sphere that turned out quite horrendous. it was hard, like, oh my god, shoe leather!!! if i'd formed the dough into paddle shapes i could've played a mean game of ping-pong with it. or given out a solid bout of corporal that's an idea. so a good sourdough crust recipe too. pretty please?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

fat-free microwaved potato chips!

the ever-prolific nic over at bakingsheet posted about healthy potato chips the other day and i knew i had to try them. you see, i have a serious chip addiction. given the choice of just one food to take with me to a lifetime's exile on a rocky, barren, tivo-less deserted isle it would have to be potato chips. given a choice between giving up my furry feline friend or chips forever the cat would have to go. just kidding, but i really do love my salty crispy snax. they are so satisfying to munch and crunch in anger, in joy, in boredom, even in bed.

so anyway, i got right up from the computer, broke out my tiny, cheap minature japanese mandoline, which looks something like this one but is less deluxe (cheaper), and began shaving off thin-thin-thin ovals from the stout torso of mr. potato. i layed out these dismembered pieces on napkins to dry them off a bit and began digging in my cupboards for a pyrex pie pan. to no avail. "what kind of baker am i that i do not own a pyrex pie pan?", i muttered to myself. then visions of the last three bread-type pastry-type things i tried to make floated into a little thought bubble that was conveniently hovering just above my uncombed head (this was in the a.m., afterall) and i stopped asking that somewhat rhetorical question. so anyway, i whipped out a regular old, microwave safe (maybe) fifty cent ikea dinner plate and lightly sprayed the surface with pan spray. i then carefully layed the thin-thin slices of mr. potato on the plate, making sure they were not touching, then "BAM", as emeril world say, right into the nuker for about three minutes. watch those lil crispy slabs of tubiferous heaven like a chickenhawk in the hen house and remove before they incinerate. they can go from "almost" to "aw shit" really fast. sprinkle liberally with salt and chowdown guilt free. i tried two thicknesses: thin-thin, and just-thin. the thin-thin version tasted like pringles, the just-thin tasted a bit more like baked lays. i am a pringles fan so i'd recommend thin-thin, if you have the proper tool for it.

just as an aside, i've tried this microwave method before with no success. my "chips" were either rubbery, burnt, or rubbery and burnt. i think the slices were too thick and i didn't pat them dry first. so make sure they're thin-thin. the nuking time will vary depending on the thickness of your slices and how many slices are on the plate. thin-thin with about seven slices took three minutes. just-thin with about 12 slices on a plate took about five.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

vegan pumpkin pie

this is a spicy, egg and dairy free pumpkin pie that doesn't use tofu. i generally don't like sweet tofu-based custards unless i'm mixing tofu with very strong flavors (like peanut butter and chocolate - yum) because i can always taste the tofu base... especially if i'm using the aseptic packaged (mori-nu) stuff. so i was really happy to find this recipe by bryanna grogan amidst her collection of free vegan thanksgiving recipes.

the flavor of the custard was excellent...very pumpkin-y and on the spicier side of the thanksgiving spectrum. my tongue is not a subtle one, either in verbal delivery or tastebud sensory reception, so i like my flavors on the stronger side. however, i had some problems with the low-fat wholewheat (low fat?!! wholewheat?!!! danger will robinson! danger!) pastry recipe that was recommended. it came out a little tough. but then again, i do seem to have the anti-pastry touch. maybe i should've been a shoe maker, then all would have fallen into place. also, after an hour in the oven the pie didn't look like it was quite done in the center. i removed it anyway thinking that it would set by the following day, which it did, kinda of but not quite enough. if you look at the picture you can see there is a slight difference in texture and color between the center and outer portions of the pie, particulary in the very center where it's just not quite firm enough. on my second trial i swapped out dough recipes and baked them up in little muffin tins, like pumpkin pie tartlets. i like a higher-crust-to-filling ratio. after about 50 minutes at 350 the smaller tarts had set and the crust was nicely browned and flakey. i think this could work out very well in a larger pie tin, but be sure that your oven is hot enough and you leave it in long enough to cook in the center. and with all recipes, don't try it out for the first time at a big gathering. halve it and give it a trial run first.

bryanna's pumpkin pie filling
2 cups solid pack pumpkin
1 cup full fat soymilk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon each: ginger, nutmeg & salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice OR cloves

place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. pour into prepared 9" unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 for about an hour. make the day before serving and let sit overnight to properly set.

oil pastry

2 cups + 2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
3 Tablespoons cold soymilk

sift together flour and salt. in a separate bowl whisk together the oil and soymilk. add wet mixture into dry mixture all at once and stir lightly with a fork. form into a ball and roll out between waxed paper. fit into pie shell. makes one 9" crust.

Monday, November 14, 2005

hearty dilled cabbage-rice soup

as promised, i am regaling you with pictures and recipes for my famous no-teeth-required vegan gruels in all their brown mushy glory. this one here is a hearty and healthy flavorful winter soup redolent with the frangrance and flavor of dill. the cabbage cooks up meltingly tender and the rice give it a nice full body. i cook most of my soups and all of my beans in a kuhn-rikon pressure cooker, the big-mack-daddy cadillac of pressure cookers. if you like to cook it quick or prepare a lot of beans (so tender!), then i highly recommend picking yourself up one of these babies. directions below are for regular stovetop preparation.

dilled cabbage-rice soup
1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
5-6 button mushrooms
1 large cabbage, quartered cored and finely sliced
8 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup brown long grain rice
3-4 plum tomatoes, canned OR 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried dill (or fresh, if you have it!)
salt and fresh black pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons balsalmic vinegar, to taste

bring stock to a boil and add onions. you may saute the onions in a little olive oil until soft if you like but i usually omit this step. simmer for a few minutes and add rinsed, uncooked rice, and all ingredients except for balsamic vinegar. simmer covered until rice is cooked and cabbage is meltingly tender. add salt, pepper and balsalmic vinegar to taste. as with most soups, the flavor of this dish improves the following day.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

weekend cat blogging #23

red-boy stops being a bird-killing machine just long enough to wish clare well after her unfortunate dog-tries-to-chase-terrified-cat-while-in-the-arms-of-a-human incident. although he does wonder if we do indeed taste just like chicken...

Friday, November 11, 2005


things have been quiet on the cooking front around here for the past three weeks or so for no good reason except that in my perpetual swing between extremes i've strayed precariously close to the edge. the no good-food-eatin', all-joy-of-life-crushing, tastebud-dyin' edge. the macrobiotic edge. not intentionally mind you, it's just that after a long bout of whipping up things like linzertorte (latest cooks illustrated-yummy!), brownie bite cookies, ice cream, and basket after basket of almost sour enough sourdough bread, well, i just got a little burnt out and felt the call to eat and cook a little closer to the source. no, that does not mean foraging in the bulk snack bins at the local supermarket. i'm referring to whole grains, steamed vegetables, brown rice and a lot of unpalatable looking stews that we fondly refer to as "vegan gruel"...nothing sexy enough to write about.

but then i had a lil' ephiphany that life is not one big hollywood movie and every scene isn't about youth and sex and money and bad plastic surgery. that with the turning of the seasons a steaming bowl of baby-pooh looking, almost predigested gruel may appeal to a few of you out there (no teeth required!). that maybe, in preparation for the holiday eating frenzy, some of you may be trying to cut back a little on the good stuff in order to lessen the tsunami of guilt to come. and do not fear, too near the macrobiotic edge i shall not stray. i hold my over-stimulating spices in too high regard.

so this post is dedicated to what we call "roots" at my house. it's a variation of a japanese hot pot dish called oden which is eaten during the cold months. in japan you can find street vendors with giant caldrons of the stuff steaming away during the winter, along with vendors selling fresh roasted chestnuts and roasted sweet potatoes. i just love all these earthy, hearty winter flavors.

the base of the oden is a konbu dashi or seaweed stock. you can make your own by simmering strips of konbu in water for about 30 minutes, then removing them, or you can do like me and buy little tubes of the stuff. i use this dashi in all my japanese dishes, especially miso soup, it really imparts a strong yet not overpowering flavor. into this stock goes a variety of weird and wonderful roots and vegetables. probably the strangest of which is konnyaku which, in it's traditional brown brick form, i absolutely hate due to its rubbery texture and kinda nasty look. it is made from the root of the konnyaku plant, also known as devil's tongue (why, i don't know), and can be purchased as a brown brick, a white brick, or as little noodles, either white or brown. the noodle shapes are called shirataki. i recommend the white noodles 'cause they're prettier and less reminiscent of a devil's tongue, which may very well be a gnarly brown, gelantinous slab peppered with black dots throughout. when you open the package there is a strong, sea-like smell which can be removed with a few good rinsings. in my oden i like to use: daikon, the long white japanese radish that cooks up quite tender and juicy with a slightly sweet flavor (but unfortunately, to my nose, smells a little like slightly fetid gym socks as it cooks); gobo, otherwise known as burdock root that lends an earthy flavor and fibrous texture; the ever beautiful renkon, or lotus root, with it's intricate flower like pattern and crunchy texture, and potatoes, both sato imo (small taro) and the small waxy ones you can find in the grocery store; carrots; shitake mushrooms; and finally my favorite part, the can substitute any type of fried tofu that tickles your fancy. in non vegetarian versions of oden you will usually find a few shelled hard boiled eggs and some form of fishcake. if you have access to an asian market you can find most of these ingredients frozen, sometimes all together in a little baggie.

for other takes on this classic japanese comfort food, go here or here.

1 daikon radish, peeled and cut into chunks
6-7 frozen taro potatoes AND/OR 1-2 regular potatoes peeled and cubed
1 long piece of burdock root, or gobo, peeled and cut into angled chunks
1 can bamboo shoots, cut into chunks (may use frozen)
1 package ganmodoki OR aburage OR smoked tofu
2 carrots, peeled and cut into angled chunks
7-8 sliced pieces of renkon (lotus root) either frozen or fresh
1 package konnyaku (or shirataki)
5-6 shitake mushrooms, fresh or dried/reconstituted
konbu dashi

in a large pot bring enough konbu dashi to just cover the ingredients to a boil. layer in the ingredients in order of cooking time, longest to shortest. i usually put raw gobo in first, then daikon, renkon, potatoes then the rest. make sure the broth just covers the ingredients. simmer on very low heat until everthing is tender. at this point i like to adjust seasonings with soy sauce and sake to taste. i like to serve this with steamed white rice and those little pickled onions.
Site Meter

«#Veggie Blogs?»