Thursday, April 28, 2016

Not Quite Vegan

You'd think after all these years as a dedicated carnivore after 6 weeks on a vegan diet I'd be dreaming of grilled t-bones and super smokey ribs. But no, day in and day out the thing I missed most -- except of course for cheese which has been my go to snack, lunch, treat for decades -- were anchovies.
A fish I don't even particularly like on it's own, I found myself craving the briny tang and edible umami of anchovies.
Tonight for a subtle break from our daily vegetable diet I cooked up a batch of braised broccoli. First I sautéed 2 minced garlic cloves and 10 anchovies in olive oil along with a tiny sprinkle (James has been staying away from chiles much to my dismay) of red pepper flakes. Then I added in a couple pounds of trimmed blanched broccoli (I used the pasta water to blanch the vegetables) and let it braise almost fully covered for about 15 minutes until soft -- way softer than Americans normally eat vegetables but comforting somehow. Then I piled in the drained 100% whole wheat (in deference to our diet) pasta and a splash of the pasta cooking water and stirred around over low heat to make a quick sauce.
A treat with my tiny fishy favorite flavor friends.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ho Yuen Kee Vancouver

Like LA and San Francisco to the South Vancouver is a West coast hot spot for Chinese food. LA may have more variety and regional cuisines but Vancouver holds it's own with neighborhood restaurants, dim sum palaces and Asian food courts.
Sitting alone in a brightly lit (way too brightly lit) room where I was the only white face I looked around and ordered what nearly everyone seemed to be having -- dungeness crab on sticky rice. Chinese comfort food at its best and a dish I rarely see -- if ever, in LA or San Francisco surprisingly.
Another delicious Vancouver visit.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lodge Bread: Culver City

Every food centric magazine or site in Los Angeles is talking about Lodge Bread these days. The tiny bakery is the brainchild and pet project of three chef friends -- Or Amsalam, Alan Craig, and Alexander Phaneuf. The three met cooking at a Los Angeles farm to table restaurant where by coincidence as their interest grew, more and more breads and tartines showed up on the menu.
Next step Phaneuf's backyard, where the three started baking for chef friends and local restaurants.
Last year a storefront. A tidy LA bread success story.
But the real story at Lodge Bread is the bread itself. Wild fermented, naturally leavened, whole grain loaves with a dark, thick, brown addictively crunchy crust. These are round, hearty, country loaves with complex almost sweet flavor from whole grains and the slightest sour tang from long fermentation. The bakery -- if you can call a small counter and a couple tables where patrons enjoy a menu of toasts that -- smells like warm bread tinged with tomatoes -- a pleasant vaguely acidic note, not unlike Ethiopian teff injera. Patrons devoted to flaky white baguettes or soft sandwich breads will be confused by Lodge's offerings. The mahogany brown loaves are unique. There are no others like them in the area and few in this country.
Oh, and did I mention they are delicious?

Monday, April 4, 2016

I Don't Know Where The Time Goes

I guess I've just had nothing to say -- or maybe nothing to cook.
We've been traveling far and wide and probably not taking the care and attention of each other or our dinners as we usually do or should.
2016 has been a madhouse, working between four continents and more timezones and then there's the diet.
I've been feeling at odds with my weight and James, who has always been thin, thought if we ate more thoughtfully we could just feel better. He started reading (actually re-reading) Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live and one day, kind of off the cuff said . . . Let's try it.
There we were, overnight vegans.
Furhman's plan celebrates plant based nutrition: beans, fruits, nuts, vegetables (cooked and raw), limited grains. No sugar, no meats, no eggs, no dairy, no processed foods, minimal grains and oils.
Of course, we decided to start with the hard core, most restrictive plan.
Suddenly I didn't know how to cook anymore. All of the flavor crutches I've used for years (cheese, bacon, olive oil, butter) were taken away. I had to start thinking about every dish and every bite.
Lentils, tofu, beans, brown rice, buckwheat, raw cashews.
For the first couple weeks it was salads, soups and bean burgers. Not exactly photogenic.
Now I am starting to branch out. Tonight's dinner which looks remarkably like our pre-Fuhrman dinner of three months ago: Brown rice risotto.
If I'd had short grain rice I would have used it but basically I cooked regular risotto with brown instead of white rice. The cooking took longer and more stock but otherwise the process is exactly the same. Start with chopped onions and garlic sautéed, in this case, in barely a shimmer of olive oil (sprayed on), add in the raw rice and toss with the barely there oil, add in some wine and when that cooks away start added stock 1/2 - 3/4 cup at a time until the rice is tender. For extra flavor I soaked some dried porcini mushrooms and used the soaking liquid as part of the liquid and added the chopped reconstituted mushrooms midway through cooking the rice. I pan roasted some king oyster mushrooms to mix in and grilled portobellos to lay on top along with some crisped collard greens.
James said it was the best meal we've had since we started, and that seemed worth posting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Buckwheat Risotto

Superfoods --  Generally nutritionally dense edibles (low calorie for food value), often high in anti=-oxidants declared good for our health and well being. Though magazines and advertisers relish the term it is not in common use by scientists or dietitians. In fact it is nothing more than a marketing term popular since 2004.
And still as each new year turns, I haul out the same old "superfood" ingredients -- spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, lentils to name a few, in another valiant effort to make us better than we are. Healthier, stronger, happier.
Tonight's offering . . . buckwheat. An undeniably healthful fruit seed related to rhubarb, tonight I stirred up a risotto of the non grain, grain. After toasting the buckwheat in the pan along with some onions and garlic I deglazed with white wine and then started adding broth by the 1/2 up until the buckwheat was tender, toothsome, and creamy just like risotto. I finished the dish with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of cheese. I hope buckwheat really is superfood enough to counteract those purely tasty but not all that pure additions.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

Trendy Tasty Rice Bowl

We start every year pledging to be healthier and stronger and somehow a couple months in we find ourselves back living in bacon city. I am the cook. I am probably to blame. I fall back on what I know and, I guess, take the easy way to flavorful foods.
I can't say this year will be different but I was encouraged by a slew of interesting, grain based and vaguely Japanese recipes in the January issue of every food magazine I read so I decided a little pantry update and lighter cooking might just be in order -- for now.
Clearly there are more healthful and interesting grains but tonight, not yet ready to brave the grocery store, I started with rice -- plain old white rice. I love it. Then I went searching through the fridge for what might add color and texture.
A little bit of leftover broccoli, a little past it's prime, was quickly boiled and dressed with a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. Butternut squash, sitting on the counter since I didn't serve them for Christmas dinner, was sweet and gingery. I quickly fried several slices of ginger in canola oil, added in the squash cut in 1 1/2" pieces,  1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of sugar (okay not quite the healthful star here but it is very Japanese) and 1/2 cup of water. I brought the liquid to a boil, covered the pot, reduced the heat to medium low and let the squash cook for about 10 minutes until tender.
With rice in the rice cooker, squash and broccoli cooked and set aside to be served room temperature on hot rice, I got a little more ambitious.
Every rice bowl (and Japanese meal) needs something pickled and a sauce. I quickly combined 1 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 TB of sugar, a pinch of salt and ground chile and let celery sticks and carrot rounds soak in that brine for about 1/2 hour. Easy. I'd have used a little lemon zest if I'd had any. For the sauce I mixed 1 TB tahini, 1 TB honey and 1 TB soy sauce with 1 tsp sesame oil. Ready. All that was left was to put it all together -- almost.
When it came time for dinner I cooked a couple eggs seasoned with soy sauce and a touch of sake into a flat omelette that I rolled and cut into slices over one side of the rice. Facing that a bit of sautéed chicken -- leftover legs and wings I tucked in the freezer after a holiday season Hainanese chicken dinner.
I wasn't too sure what to expect when James sat down to dinner. But, he seemed pleased by the lighter style and lighter plate.
It's fun to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Not a bad way to cook in 2016.