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Archive for February, 2008

My favorite health food store, Northside Health Food on Bedford Avenue is closing. The owner told me he’d be selling off the inventory at reduced prices so I went there today to stock up on some basics. It was sad. They’ve been there forever. Or at least for longer than I’ve been around these parts, which is almost 10 years by now.

The reason this makes me sad, apart from the fact that the owners are friendly and that they have a nice assortment of grains, beans and nuts in bulk, is that they were selling health food in the neighborhood before anyone else was. Now they’ve been pushed out of business by all the new (heavily marked up) stores that have moved in selling ready-made foods and expensive soy products and yuppified organics.

I wish I wasn’t so alone in appreciating good old simple ingredients in bulk. I realize I’m fighting a losing battle here, but why don’t people just eat actual food as opposed to the overpriced over-processed stuff that passes for health food in some quarters? I find it particularly ironic that people thing they are being healthy when they eat stuff like soy ice cream or Tofurky sandwich meats. Not that I’ve never had that stuff, just saying. Oh well. Can’t stand in the way of capitalism. Sigh. I suppose I will be making more frequent trips to Sahadi’s from now on.

Bulk Bins

I just wanted to pour some textual beer on the ground for a store that has been part of my Brooklyn since I moved here. It will turn into a pet supply store, so I guess that’s where I will be buying my kitty litter in the future.

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Lately I’ve been experimenting with steel cut oats in the mornings. I thought I’d find it too sticky and heavy, but I don’t. It’s delicious. I’ve been adding different fruits and spices to it. Mostly apples. Today I made apple raisin oats with cinnamon and fresh grated ginger to exorcise the debilitating flu I’ve come down with.

Apple Raisin Ginger Oats

Other combos have included pineapple, ginger, orange zest and grated carrot (inspired by Veganomicon’s Sunshine Muffins); apple and fresh pomegranate (this was especially tasty); and plain old banana apple.

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I learned to cook from my mom as a kid, and by making dinner for my family starting when I was about 12 or so. I never used recipes. Then one day I realized that I was stuck in a rut, making the same foods over and over again, with the exact same spices. I decided to buy myself a few cookbooks and to teach myself new techniques and flavor combinations by systematically cooking my way through them. (Also, I was given a couple of great cookbooks by my mother and sister last year.) While I have other cookbooks, these are the ones that are on particularly heavy rotation right now. That might change, but I am trying to exercise restraint and not buy any new ones until I have cooked most of the recipes in these.

Veganomicon

Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero.












Olive Trees and Honey

Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World, by Gil Marks.

Both of these are large encyclopedic cookbooks that are great for the kind of large batches of simple everyday foods I mostly eat when alone. I’m a soup fiend and they both have a large number of great soup recipes. (I’m almost at my goal of having cooked every soup in Olive Trees and Honey.






Cranks

The Cranks Bible, by Nadine Abensur was my first cookbook. Cranks is a famous vegetarian restaurant in London where Abensur, who is a French-Moroccan Jew was food director for many years. The recipes are sort of a veggie fusion with a South-Mediterranean tilt. It’s peerless for spectacular dishes to impress guests and show them how great vegetarian cooking can be, but some are a bit too rich and involved for my daily needs. It is, however, my first love among cookbooks and a major influence on the way I cook.

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Weekly Soup

Turkish Mixed Legume and Bulgur Soup

I tend to be too busy to cook during the weeks. Instead I try to make a batch of soup on the weekend that I freeze into portions for future use as workday lunches. I’m about 10 months into doing this systematically so at this point I have a good variety of soups in my freezer. Some might say way too much soup for my tiny freezer to handle.

Lately I’ve had to slow down a little and not make soup for a week or two since I was running out of space. Instead I lived off UFOs (unidentifiable frozen objects) from when the grass was greener and the produce at the farmers’ market more exciting.

Unthawing a vegetable stew with summer squash, aubergines and fresh herbs was like having my own little piece of August right here in my dismal February kitchen (but without the mosquitoes and the oppressive heat).

Today the time had finally come to make soup again. I chose the Turkish Mixed Legume and Bulgur Soup from Olive Trees and Honey. I’d had my eye on this one for a while. Since it doesn’t have any fresh veggies in it, it didn’t make sense to make during the harvest season. I figured now was the perfect time since all there is at the farmers market is potatoes and roots.

I had lots of little amounts of stuff that I needed to get rid of, like 3/4 cup of bulgur. This recipe which mixes black eyed peas, chick peas, lentils and bulgur was perfect for that. I used homemade vegetable broth so that there would be at least some nutrients in there. Other than that the only freshness in here was chopped parsley and mint, which cut it suprisingly well, but I think next time I might add a few veggies to the mix. I think carrots and celery might work particularly well.

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I’m always looking for new ways to cook lentils. Last week I made the Tamarind Lentils from Veganomicon. My expectations weren’t particularly high, but this recipe is something else. I actually subbed pomegranate molasses for tamarind paste since I had one and not the other. I might add that I also made my own garam masala according to Wikipedia’s (heh, I know, I know) directions. (Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.) Not sure if it tasted exactly the way the Veganomicon authors intended, but the results were amazing. Sweet, tangy, thick, spicy and delicious.

I ate the lentils with odds and ends in my fridge that needed to be used up. This produced a very old-school health food restaurant looking plate. But I promise much more flavorful and very tasty.

Clockwise from top:

Moroccan/ Israeli raw carrot salad, from Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World.

Mexican Millet, from Veganomicon.

Tamarind Lentils, also from Veganomicon.

And finally, steamed kale.

Lunch Cornucopia

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Bread Bonanza

Normally I am the type to love kneading, also I am more of a savory bread-maker than a muffins and loaves girl, so it is a little out of character that I went and baked three no-knead, semi-sweet things in one week. But I figured I wanted to try a few different recipes from Veganomicon and also wanted a stock of bread in my freezer that can be eaten on their own, without spreads, should I so desire.

First I made Whole Wheat Soda Bread with Millet and Currants from Veganomicon. The amount of sugar given seemed a bit much to me, so I cut it to two tablespoons with excellent results. I remember having soda bread at my grandparents’ place when I was in London as a kid. This was every bit as good, if not better.

Whole Wheat Soda Bread with Millet and Currants

Then I made two bready things in one evening:

Applesauce Oatbran Muffins also from Veganomicon

(Reduced the sugar to one tablespoon.)

Applesauce Oatbran Muffins

And finally, an oldie but goodie: Walnut Raisin Loaf from The Cranks Bible my first cookbook, which remains one of my favorites despite the fact that it is a bit heavy on the dairy for my current mostly vegan food preference. Most things are easy to veganize though, as was this. I just skipped the eggs and used rice milk instead of cow’s milk.

Walnut Raisin Loaf

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