Thursday, October 1, 2009

see, here's the thing.

pumpkins are real. 

it is a little known fact that you can put pumpkin seeds in the ground in early spring and if you take good care of them or at least moderately good care of them you will have one or two or several in the fall. they grow on vines and are orange and fabulous. the one i used and the ones pictured came from my garden! pumpkins are actual things, people.

i stress this because of this. these cans of pumpkin that seem to stand in for real pumpkin all the time. and you know what? most of the time they're not even pumpkin. they're squash. the companies have been pulling a fast one on us for years, and we've just sat by and taken it! well, not anymore. not now. find a real goddamn pumpkin any way you can and let's get to it.

admire the thing for its exquisite beauty. pat yourself on the back for either growing it yourself, snatching it from a neighbor's garden, or selecting it from a plethora of other pumpkins at a local farmstand. then cut the thing open, as in half as you can (mind the stem, or cut the stem out ahead of time, jack-o-lantern style) and scoop out the insides.

 an ice cream scoop works well, but you can also just dig in with your hands because it's fun and gooey and while you're doing it you can really get a good laugh in at yourself. also, if you're me and trying to photograph the venture at the same time, it will make things extra difficult. 

so, scoop out the insides as well as you can. get all the stringy stuff out. 

you can save the seeds and then bake them and spice them and have a grand old time with them if that's what you're into. or, just compost 'em. 

cut the stem out if you haven't already, and then cut the pumpkin caverns into smaller pieces. 

i call them caverns for obvious reasons. something adorable could probably make quite a home out of one of these hollowed out pumpkins. if you have ample pumpkins, hollow one out and set it up outside. not as a trap, but as an experiment. cut little windows and a door out of one side. your neighbors might think you're a creep, but you'll be the one with a somewhat domesticated vole family at the end of it all. if it works, consider making a quaint little village with pumpkin seed pathways. 

fire up your favorite steamer (i assume you have many) and steam up all the pumpkin fractions! 

you can also bake them if that is more your style. to bake them, put them on baking sheets that have a good half-inch to an inch of water in them, to steam them and to avoid anything burning.

after about 20 to 30 minutes of steaming, or 40-50 minutes of baking, your pumpkins should be soft and ready to be pureed. the skin should peel easily off of them. 

if it doesn't, give them more time in the steamer or oven, or just scoop the pumpkin from the shell manually. give it time to cool before you do this, either way. the pumpkin is going to be super hot and if you are too overzealous with handling them, you'll earn yourself some time in the burn ward, which won't be nice to begin with, but will feel extra horrible because you most likely don't have health insurance, even less, BURN insurance and oh golly. so, just let it cool. go take a walk or make a sandwich in the meanwhile.

once it has all cooled and you have all the skins off, puree all the pumpkin! i use an immersion blender, and it is quite the wonder machine. i feel like every kitchen-prone individual has that one kitchen implement that they swear by. it's actually annoying. whenever they use it, they'll say something like, "oh, i don't know what i'd do without my ______," or "what was my life like before i had my _____?" i have found this most often to be the case with people and their salad spinners. since i still don't have one, though, i can't relate. i eat somewhat soggy salad and get by just fine. but the immersion blender?! i don't know what i'd do without it! what was my life like before i had it? oh, i have no idea.

blend the pumpkin up with whatever you have. immersion blender, standard blender, masher, fisticuffs, egg beater...just get it all pureed. then you have pumpkin! ta-da! it is just like what they put in those cans, except that it probably has leeched little to no aluminum into it, and it's ACTUALLY pumpkin! yes, you can be sure of that.

so, once you have the pumpkin puree, you can do whatever you want with it. i recommend breads, pies, soups, ice cream, cookies, the whole nine yards. here i will impart a stellar pumpkin bread recipe, however. also, i will remind you that you can make a whole bunch of pumpkin puree and freeze it and have it year-round.

so, here's what you need for pumpkin bread:

1 cup sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup water

egg replacer for 2 eggs (i use 4 tablespoons water mixed with 4 tablespoons cornstarch)

1 2/3 cup flour (local flour wild hive blah blah blah)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

so, a quick note on apples/applesauce. if you live in the hudson valley, or even better, around new paltz or highland, there is a pretty sweet resource for you to get awesome organic apples. you can lease an apple tree from Libertyview Farms, and get full use and harvest of a tree for the season. my house has one, and this means we are constantly eating apples, making applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, all that stuff. unfortunately, we had just gobbled up the latest batch of applesauce from our apples, and i had to use the jar stuff for this recipe. but, i just had to note. homemade applesauce in this recipe would be killer.

mix the wet ingredients together in one bowl. mix the dry ingredients in another. then mix both together. easy!

pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes or so. ovens vary, so just check it periodically with a knife or toothpick. and take a tip from me and don't let the top burn. the top of mine burnt due to small neglect. boy is my face red. i considered for a millisecond photoshopping this picture so it appeared to be perfectly un-singed. but here's the deal: my photoshop savvy just isn't what it used to be.

also, you may remember that pumpkins are real. burnt pumpkin bread is as well.

other uses for pumpkin? oh, i'm sure you know. carve your favorite archie character into the side of one. or, at least, the most identifiable archie character. that being archie, himself. that's what i did last year and i can't say it turned many heads. but, you know. someone's got to do it.


Friday, August 7, 2009

pickled hot peppers:
it is easier than you'd think to avoid any and all double entendres using the word "hot."

i'd like to begin this entry by declaring this: friends are important. so important that the sentence "friends are important" is immediately the biggest understatement ever. but, it is the closest to the truth that i can get right now. friends are often how you know the things you know. you can learn so much from them, and they can learn so much from you. i feel incredibly lucky to have so many solid friends. i'm trying not to brag too hard. but, really. they're great. monica and ross do the silliest things sometimes.

this brings me to simon thrasher. if you ever have the privilege of meeting this man, you will truly understand why the sentence "friends are important" is partially some sick joke. i am positive that simon is one of the most incredible people living today (and when he is dust, he will be one of the most incredible people of the past), and it is from him that i learned how to make picked hot peppers.

see? full circle. also, i am openly accepting all claims of simon not being one of the finest humans ever, mostly as a dare. 

to note: this guide is mostly all approximations. later i'll even call myself a hack.

so, i was inspired to do this upon coming home from work, giving the garden the ole once over, and seeing a nice number of hot peppers glistening on their stems, so ready to be picked. it was also an activity i could mostly do entirely while sitting on the porch, which is always preferable. 

harvest your peppers. cradle them in your arms because you do indeed love them very much. bring them to your cutting board and slice off the stems (lovingly), keeping them to use as cute little hats for your friends or for inanimate objects in your house. they are aesthetically quite versatile. 

before i go any further, there is something i need to stress. do not, do not, really do not touch your eyes at all during this whole jam. don't touch any festering wounds, either. wash your hands after you're done with everything. have an adult on hand to help you if any of this is difficult. i mean it. 

so, cut up all your peppers. i like cutting them in rounds, but you can really do whatever you want. 

get your jars together (good buddies ball or mason) and boil them and the lids in water for a while to get them all sanitary. 

jam all your peppers into your jars. really smush the peppers into the jars, make them pretty tightly packed.

add salt to the jar. for each pint jar i used one tablespoon of sea salt. for quart jars i use two tablespoons. 

sprinkle the salt on top and then fill the jar with water, leaving a real small amount of room at the top for air. then, seal them up!

leave them at room temperature for about three days (opening them slowly and slightly every once in a while if you think it might bust without releasing some of the bubbles), and then keep them in the fridge after that. then put them on food. you will probably find yourself planning meals specifically around their usage. when i was introduced to them, i ate so much mexican food just so i could work them in all the time. i highly encourage this practice.

in effort to tie simon back into things, i will share this. the very peppers that i used for this canning grew from plants that were delivered to me by my pal marybeth from simon, from the ithaca farmer's market. they were in trays in their infancy when i received them, and are now popping out peppers like it's nothing. oh, agriculture

i'm going to be honest here and say that i am a total hack when it comes to some things. this tutorial is based on the way i do things, which may or may not be the best/most efficient/most radical way to do it as a whole. i'm kind of casual about measurements and taste and all that stuff, and often my fermented foods will explode out a slight bit upon being opened after a few days of sitting, but i am okay with this. experimentation, people! another great way to learn things.

this way of fermenting things is called lacto-fermentation. it keeps all the good bacteria in your food, versus using vinegar to pickle things and killing off all sorts of friendly bacteria. lacto-fermentation often uses whey, which is not at all vegan, so is nothing i am remotely interested in using or instructing on. you can lacto-ferment things with just salt! you can make pickles with just cucumbers, water, dill, salt, and garlic. sure, coriander and cumin seed would be good, too, but you get the point! lacto-fermentation can be so simple but so incredible! crazy sciency stuff about it can be found here. freaking rad stuff about it from a guy who really knows what he's talking about can be found here. i feel like there is so much to be said and shared on fermenting, and i don't even know a quarter of it. 

i documented a fermentation night at our house that turned out a bunch of dilly beans, pickled beets and sauerkraut. i think that calls for another whole blog post, eventually. maybe i'll have more info together by then.

next on the personal agenda: perfecting the home-made and home-grown hot sauce. when the oil crash hits, i'll still be able to incinerate my tongue at every meal. life is wonderful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pesto or else:
the tastiest thing to happen to basil. ever. 

it's that time of year. if you've planned things well, you have so much basil right now that you're throwing it in the air and rolling around in a bed of it. it's really fun, but you think you might want to do more with it soon. and here comes the pesto train.

the recipe:
4 cups of basil (fresh fresh fresh!!)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup of pine nuts
2 cloves garlic (i used two garlic scapes)
salt & pepper to taste

there you have it. all the makings for a super solid pesto! 

first, a note on harvesting basil. to keep your basil plants producing more of the magnificent stuff, you have to pick it at the right place on the plant. also, frequent harvests keep it from flowering, which can make it taste bitter. so, make sure it has at least three sets of leaves, and ideally, is at least one foot tall. pick off the basil that is sprouting up between another two leaves, so that it will continue to grow from there, ensuring a plentiful basil harvest. i tried to photograph this process but did a really awful job. so! here's a helpful website! and here's a car dealership website owned by someone with the last name of basil!
oh, the wonderful world of basil.

remove all the basil from the stems (leaving a little is okay, it doesn't have to be SO precise) and measure it. it doesn't have to be 4 well packed cups of basil, but it should take up 4 cups worth without being too loosely packed.

put it in a food processor with the pine nuts and garlic. you can experiment with other kinds of nuts, too. i've heard of walnuts working well, i just have a strong personal affinity for pine nuts. it's in the early stages, though. no worries.

begin to mix it, and pour in the oil as you go. add salt and pepper as needed, and also add more pine nuts or basil or whatever you think it needs.

this recipe makes one cup of really rad pesto.

this brimming ball jar of pesto was too exciting for my camera to even focus on. wild, i know.

now that you have pesto, you should do these things with it:
-mix it and only it with pasta.
-have a hummus/pesto/cucumber/tomato/avocado sandwich.
-make sushi and put a layer of pesto on top of the layer of rice.
-put it all over veggie burgers.
-use it instead of tomato sauce (or in conjunction with) on pizza.
-attempt to use the leftover basil as currency at any local shops.
-throw a pesto party in which everyone wears green and brings their own starchy something-or-rather to cover in pesto. optional: pesto pinata?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coconut Curry Soup
subtitled: i've got so many goddamn greens

So! There are a few things that went into the motivation to whip this soup up: a deep deep love of coconut milk (ordered by the case), the incessant urge to completely improvise recipes, and, perhaps most importantly, A LOT OF FREAKING GREENS.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a CSA, allow me to explain. CSA stands for "community supported agriculture," and if you are currently living in the hudson valley, you are really surrounded by it. You can find a list of local farms that offer CSAs here. There are 6 in New Paltz alone, which is where I happen to thrive. When you sign up for a CSA, you pay a certain predetermined amount to the farm (often on a sliding scale) and then you get a share of the harvest. Every farm is different, but the way it works at Brook Farm, where my housemates and I have a share, we get a pick up every single week, which is usually an over-abundance of amazing local and organic veggies to keep us in good shape. Work-exchange is often also a part of the fee for a share, so helping to harvest on pick-up days and general labor is also a part of the agreement sometimes. Being a CSA member means that you are close to your food source. It means that your relationship to your food is that much more substantial, and it cuts down majorly on your impact on the earth, as you won't be relying on purchasing produce that has been trucked or flown in from all over the country and even all over the world!

Being a part of a CSA also teaches you to eat seasonally. You get to understand when certain things grow and when they don't, so you are more in tune with the growing season. I can't really say enough good things about CSAs, so please look into them more if you are interested. Here are some more reasons to check em out. There is even a new CSA in the area that gathers vegetables all year-round from local farms to freeze and distribute throughout the winter so you can eat local produce even when it is snowing out! is a great resource for all of this.

So, this being said, our CSA pick-ups lately have been filled with greens. Not only has the CSA pick-up been this way, but my housemate works at a local farm, and we have a garden, so we have generally just been overloaded. This soup recipe is a great way to "take care of" a bunch of them. (My apologies to the greens: I do not mean to slander you in any way, or suggest that you need "taking care of." You are vibrant. You are lovely. You make my life complete.)

What you need:
-6 cups vegetable broth
-1/4 cup chopped onion
-2 1/4 teaspoon green curry paste
-2 1/4 teaspoon red miso paste
-1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-juice of 1 lime
-GREENS GREENS GREENS! (this means whatever you have. i used a bunch of tat soi, bok choy, and chinese cabbage.)
-basil, dill, cilantro (i can't measure these things, so put as much as you want in.)
-mushrooms (4 0z or so. i used tiny brown beech mushrooms, but i think any would do real well.)
-1 can of coconut milk
-a few dashes of cumin
-broccoli (however much you want)
-asparagas (however much you want)
-garlic scapes
-1-3 teaspoons of Bragg's Liquid Aminos
-a few shakes of crushed red peppers

I'll say it. I'm really bad at measuring things when I cook. I hate to do it, it takes the fun out of things, dirties unnecessary little implements, etc etc. But! I did think I would be trying to use this recipe for the blog if it turned out right, so I took note of measurements as I went. But, please please please feel free to add and subtract things wherever. If you don't want asparagas, throw it against the wall yelling "to the moon with you!" triumphantly. Or, rather, bring it to me. I love asparagas. But, just put in what you want. Cooking is fun, I swear.

So, start to simmer the broth. You can use bullion cubes or pre-boxed broth or your own homemade broth. This is where things get dicey (pun intended?). Throw everything in in whatever order you want, really. But save the lime for last. Really. I can't really remember what I did in what order, so just feel it out. Chop everything up and let it hang out in the pot.

Garlic scapes. You might be unfamiliar with them, but you shouldn't! They are the cutest and way versatile and delicious. Read of one's discovery of them here. I chop them up and use them as i would garlic.

garlic scapes that Cheryl and I tended to in Sedro Woolley, Washington.

Mushrooms. The ones I got and used came together in a little chunk. To free them, i chopped off the base and separated them, and I think they were really perfect for this soup.

As far as everything else goes, just improvise. Throw caution to the wind and add in some ginger. Your soup should look like this.

Your stomach should feel pretty good, too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

let's talk about breakfast.

for dinner. breakfast for dinner. matt made the joke of "make breakfast. eat it nine hours later," but i think that there is more to be said than just that. breakfast for dinner is great. it proves that you're totally an adult and you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. i suggest having fetuccini alfredo at 8am for this very same reason. on to breakfast:

i think vegans might be somewhat on the losing side of breakfast dishes, to be honest. at least breakfast components that don't rely heavily on tofu or processed soy meats, etc. but there are actually a ton of options! a metric ton! i put together a few in this post, the basics: pancakes, potatoes, toast, and threw in an avocado strawberry mint "salad" for good measure. but use your imagination! when i was unemployed for months i made myself elaborate breakfasts every morning, just because i could. the realm of vegan omelettes is something beautiful. if you ever want to talk about it in detail, find me in the streets and demand answers.

my trusty sidekick/roommate/life partner cheryl worked on the potatoes as i put together the pancake batter and avocado salad. as i have said before, it is great to have pals around, and can make the fixin' process way fun and much faster. for the potatoes, we usually cut up a bunch of them (yukons in today's case) into cubes, and boil them until they are relatively soft. our stovetop only has settings in varying degrees of high, so frying the potatoes up in a skillet without them burning can be hard. thus, we cheat a little bit and boil them ahead of time. then they can cook sufficiently and not burn!

first, we sauteed onions, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, and kale in a pot, then added the potatoes and added salt, paprika, pepper, and other seasonings.

i'm sorry if you are reading this and are feeling that your intelligence is being undercut, because breakfast potatoes are a pretty simple dish. i'm just being thorough. paprika and breakfast potatoes, though, if you don't know, are perfect companions. really. put them together, please. it it very important. we also grabbed some fresh parsley from our garden and choppped it up and threw it in the potatoes. and we're done! keep 'em covered while you cook everything else, and give them a little heat up if you need to by the time you are ready to eat.

the pancakes! oh god the pancakes! i have been known to make pancakes for myself every morning of my life. it is something that i can't shake and don't want to shake. pancakes are wonderful. i've had the simplest recipe for them memorized for years, sharing it here and there and leaving happy pancake eaters all along the way. i once had a dream to make pancakes in every state in the U.S. it was quickly abandoned, but at this point, i have made pancakes in oregon, california, rhode island, and new york. only 46 states to go!

the pancake recipe:
2 cups flour (wild hive wild hive blah blah blah)
2 cups milk substitute of your choice (almond is usually mine)
3 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sweetener (i use agave)
2-3 tablespoons oil (optional, really)
pinch of salt
cinnamon, paprika, any spices you want, really.

i am now realizing that i have a lot to say about pancakes. in college, we took apart our ironing closet in our common room and turned it into an electric griddle station, with a pull-out, draw-bridge like griddle, so we didn't ever have to leave our suite to eat pancakes. it was great.

it also needs to be said that i am incapable of making small pancakes. i can only make enormous ones, and the recipe above makes 5 enormous pancakes. if you are more modest with your cake size, then you can probably get double that out of that batter. i just need pancakes to be massive. it doesn't make sense to me if they are small. maybe i'm a freak.

so, mix up all the ingredients.

it will be a pancake batter!

if it appears too thick or too thin, add flour and milk accordingly. also, i strongly advocate for the use of fresh nutmeg (your friend the microplane will assist you here) and fresh cinnamon.

it is also a really great idea to have an array of additives: bananas, apples, chocolate chips, strawberries, blueberries, any fruit, really. today i used gala apples. if you have a lot of people to feed, make up like 12 batches of the batter, have pals cut up a million different fruits, and have people write down what they want, and make them to order! the mornings after stay true paltz, we did this to control the chaos of needing lots of people to eat pancakes. it's the best thing ever, as long as your favorite pasttime is standing over a hot griddle, flipping pancakes, as it is mine. i think i was just born to make pancakes.

i cut up the apples pretty thin and tossed them in a mix of agave and cinnamon.

after you pour the batter onto the hot griddle, arrange the fruit slices however you want on the top. when bubbles start to push through to the top of the pancake, peek under it to see how done it is. when it is time, flip it! cook that side, and then you have yourself a pancake! cover it or keep it in an oven to keep it warm while you make the rest of them.

the avocado strawberry salad!
2 avocados, sliced thin
a bunch of strawberries. 16 or so?
the juice of 2 lemons
for the yogurt topping:
1/2 cup of plan yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped up mint
salt and pepper
mint leaves to garnish

cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. remove all the skin, and slice em up. slice up the strawberries, and juice the lemons. cover the avocados with half the lemon juice immediately, in a bowl, so the avocados do not start to brown. mix all of this up, add the rest of the lemon juice.

for the yogurt topping, just mix up the yogurt and the mint and a little salt and pepper. i used raspberry coconut milk yogurt, which was admittedly sort of a weird combination with the mint. i think it worked out well in the end, though. and we picked the mint fresh from our garden. i highly recommend everyone to start an herb garden at their house so you will never be at a loss for fresh herbs. okay!

now, on to the toast.
if you are eating any bread that is not heidelberg, you are out of your goddamn mind. if you are sensative to gluten, then fine. eat whatever second-rate bread substitute you can muster. ezekiel will do you just fine. but if you are fine with gluten and spend your time eating anything that isn't heidelberg, you are certifiably insane and need to go seek help by purchasing many loaves of heidelberg bread and eating them in succession over a few days. seriously! it is the best bread ever, making it impossible to eat bread products anywhere that i cannot procure it. morning brew gets it, why doesn't every business? few things rival my passion for heidelberg bread.

that being said, get out your loaf of heidelberg bread, and toast it. put whatever you want on it, although heidelberg bread doesn't need any topper to be the best bread known to earth, and eat it. rejoice.

so, put all of this on a plate. with any luck, it will look gorgeous, and a bit like this:

use real maple syrup, because, yes, you are also crazy if you consume anything but. buy maple syrup by the half gallon. it is good on pretty much anything. grapefruit, especially. trust me.

hopefully your friend sam will come by with tons of awesome juice at this point, and you can all enjoy a great and simple breakfast for dinner. i'll admit that i douse potatoes unforgivably with hot sauce, but i'll talk about that more another time. hot sauce, cats, and heidelberg bread. those are my passions lately.