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.