Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Can't Believe I Failed to Eat Vegan: IMBB #19

Anxious to get involved in the IMBB scene, I spent days pondering vegan recipes. Vegan gingerbread? Falafel? Can pasta be vegan? I was uninspired. After much consideration, I decided my only choice was to counter-blog IMBB #19. But it seemed inadequate to simply cook some meat and thumb my nose--not at all in the IMBB spirit. Instead, I devised my own little challenge: create the ultimate anti-vegan meal, and thus redeem myself in the eyes of Becks and Posh and the rest of the (blog) world.

I used this post at Is My Blog Burning? as my shopping list. The goal was to consume as many types of animals and animal products as possible in a single meal.

The first course was goose liver pate on baguette. I would have used full-on genuine morally objectionable foie gras, but I shop at Whole Foods. (What does it say about me that my grocery store has more of a conscience than I do?) The label informs me that I consumed the internal organs of goose and duck.

(NB: I realize that not all vegans choose to eat the way they do for moral reasons. But to create a truly anti-vegan meal, I thought it would be best veer as far as possible for the vegan beaten path.)

For the main course, I would have liked to get some Chilean Sea Bass, since it is apparently being overfished and threatened with extinction. But alas, I was thwarted by Whole Foods once again. I settled for sauteing a salmon steak, on the grounds that having the word "steak" in the name got me extra negative vegan points.

On the side, I planned baby squash roasted with coins of chorizo sausage. Eating tiny, infant veggies seems to go against the "compassionate, just, and kind" spirit of veganism, so I deemed baby squash to be the most anti-vegan vegetable. The sausage contained both beef and pork, making it a culinary double word score. I popped the whole mix under my broiler with a few sprigs of rosemary for 25 minutes and--because you can't be too careful--I drizzled everything with butter.

There was, naturally, a cheese course.

For dessert, I opted for buttermilk biscuits, topped with honey-baked plums and yogurt. The honey was the key ingredient here--the stolen fruits of untold hours of honeybee sweatshop labor--but the buttermilk, eggs, and yogurt did their part.

I cooked the meal wearing high-heel shoes boasting "authentic leather uppers" and used wool potholders. The table was set with a silk cloth. And I used a leather-bound book as trivet, just for good measure.

My only regret is that I was unable to figure out a way to work in animal gelatin. Mostly because I didn't want to think too hard about what such a thing might consist of. Everyone has to draw the line somewhere, right?

My badge of shame:

Tagged with: +

Monday, September 26, 2005

An Ode to the Humble Pierogie

Pierogies are Poland's greatest gift to the world. They are what I eat when there is nothing to eat in the house. The brand shown at left seduced me with their whispered promises of authenticity and "Old World Flavor." But I should not have strayed from my first pierogie love, Mrs. T's. (query--Could Mrs. T be related to Mr. T? Perhaps they are married?--ed.) The potato and onion variety is the best--elegant in its simplicity.

Many pierogie manufacturers instruct you to boil the little doughy pockets, filled with mashed potato. But really, the pierogie comes into its own in a skillet. I usually soak frozen pierogies in hot water for five minutes, drain them, and dump them into a skillet with onions already sauteing in a mix of olive oil and butter. Cook until they are warmed though and browned on the outside. Add salt and pepper. Here are some of my favorite pierogie accompaniments:

  • petit pois and yellow corn
  • salsa (add fresh chiles to the onions)
  • tiny cubes of dried salami/sausage and cheddar cheese (for that real Midwest taste!)
  • smoked paprika (make sure the pierogies are extra browned, almost crispy)
  • kielbasa and fresh basil
  • sour cream (very traditional)
  • a marathon runner in his underwear (seriously)
Pierogies are, it turns out, a pretty low-brow food. Mrs. T's homepage declares the company to be the "Proud Sponsor of the AMF Bowling Association."

They seemed quite exotic to me when I first encountered them in college. A friend hosted semi-regular pierogie parties. Though they might have been more aptly called pierogie orgies. There was lots of feeding each other with our fingers. Obscene quantities of pierogies were consumed. There was an aura of mystery around their origins for me, since I had never seen them in a grocery store before. (As it turns out, many grocers stock them in the freezer case). As pierogies and I got better acquainted, though, I was pleased to discover that they are the Polish peasant equivalent of a Big Mac.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Aloo Gobi Dreams

There is a fine establishment near my office called Naan and Beyond. Its hokey name tempted me in, but the aloo gobi made me come back. It arrives in a Styrofoam container, shrouded in plastic wrap, leaking turmeric-orange oil. This potato-and-cauliflower curry is available as a standard offering at many Indian restaurants, but Naan serves it only sporadically. I have begged for it to be added to the regular rotation, but the man behind the counter (he has the look of a Wu-Tang pirate--gold teeth, a shaved head, and a large gold hoop in his ear) always pointedly ignores me and calls for the next customer.

My efforts to recreate this wonder at home met with mixed success at first. My early batches were woefully heart-healthy, and thus rather dull. The solution, I soon learned, is oil and salt. But mostly oil. After some experimentation, I settled on a mix of corn oil and peanut oil. The reason you must re-create the Exxon-Valdez spill in your kitchen (minus adorable oily ducks) is that most of the oil gets soaked up by the potatoes.

Once you embrace oil, the rest is easy. Don't be alarmed by the large quantity of spices. As far as I can tell, obscenely profligate use of spice is what distinguishes a good Indian cooking amateur from a bad one.


Aloo Gobi
loosely based on Naan and Beyond's secret recipe

In an oversize skillet or dutch oven, warm over medium-high heat:
4 tablespoons corn oil (or other flavorless veggie oil)
3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 large onion, diced (I usually use vidalia, but any old onion will do)

Fry the onion until it is fairly soft, but not brown. Turn the heat to high and add:
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 generous tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 or 3 small fresh chiles, minced (my supermarket calls them Thai peppers). They look like this:

Fry the spices until they smell good, say, a minute and a half. Add:
1 or 2 lbs. new potatoes, washed and quartered
1 head of cauliflower, broken into large florets

Stir to coat the potatoes and cauliflower in the spices. They should be quickly dyed bright orange. Then put the lid on, turn the heat to medium-low, and wait. I find that the cooking time varies a lot. You want the whole dish to be tender, but the cauliflower shouldn't disintegrate when you stir. Maybe 30 minutes. If the pan gets too dry and the veggies start to burn, add a smidge of water. Be careful, though. Soupy aloo gobi is foul.

I usually eat this as a side, with other Indian dishes and rice. But it's good with whatever protein you have on hand, as well.

Yours won't be as good as Naan and Beyond. No one's is. But it'll be good.

Friday, September 23, 2005

My sweet chickpea

Note, if you will, the weight indicated on the side of the can. Yup. 6 pounds, 14 ounces of chickpea lovin'. Stay tuned for hummus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bliss at Lunch Time

There is no sandwich more wonderful than the BLT. And there is no establishment that makes a better BLT than Fran O'Brien's. I know that this is a bold claim to make for the permanent record, blogging neophyte though I am. But I stand by it.

Today's lunch consisted of a BLT so perfect, so luscious, I had to post purely to sing its praises. The bread was thickly sliced, chewy, and dense--with grill lines across it. Both inside faces of the bread were mayoed (if that isn't a verb, it ought to be). The bacon was crisp, but didn't splinter under pressure. And a perfect, very ripe September beefsteak tomato provided moisture and ketchupy umami without soaking the bread.

When I dine at Fran's, it is always in the smoking section. This is where the testosterone-laden ethos of the place is most concentrated. There is a wall of muted TVs, all tuned to news and sports. The other walls sport football memorabilia The booths are enormous and smoothly leathery, as are the patrons. The menu is mostly meat, and it is in a hotel basement.

An unlikely description of culinary heaven, but there you have it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Come in! Sit down! Can I get you a drink?

Welcome to ToastPoint. Dinner will be served shortly.