Thursday, September 27, 2007

the sourdough post

Imagine my happiness at arriving home one day to find an envelope in the mail from Jody. In it, she had sent me a bit of sourdough starter that has been passed down for decades! I had been a little leery about starting a relationship with a sourdough starter, since I had managed to kill one before, but Jody assured me that this particular batch is hardy as hell, and nearly impossible to kill.

Well, she was right! We revived and fed the starter the night we received it, and the next morning, we were ready to have...

Sourdough pancakes!! Daiku and I are both huge fans of sourdough (having grown up in the Bay Area, I have enjoyed my fair share of San Francisco sourdough bread), but had never tried it in pancake form.

Not only were these suckers fluffy, golden, and beautiful, but they were delicious!

Served with a little bit of Earth Balance and maple syrup, they were melt-in-your-mouth heaven.

Next up, sourdough pizza dough:

Holy mother of crust, this was magnificent! The dough is actually quite easy to make, and doesn't take that long to rise. This is the cool thing about sourdough- it's like a shortcut to baking, since the starter is like a seasoned sponge that otherwise would take hours and hours to achieve.

After par-baking the crust and brushing it with olive oil, we topped it with fresh garlic, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, black olives, and basil from the garden. I topped my half with tofu ricotta, and Daiku topped his half with (dairy) white cheddar.

This pizza was, in a word, amazing. We kept marveling at the professional results our dough achieved, how it had the perfect flavor and flaky texture, and how this was the closest we'd ever come to duplicating the unique characteristics of New York-style pizza.

Look how the thin crust stood up to the load of toppings!

Ok, we had had our fun- now it was time to get down to serious business: sourdough bread.

This was the first attempt. I loved how soft the bread came out (perfect for sandwiches).

And how good the inside looked.

It was just the thing for recreating one of my all-time favorite breakfasts from childhood. My mom used to make me honey butter, basically a mixture of honey and butter, to put on toast. Nowadays, I simply make it with a mixture of Earth Balance and agave nectar, and it is so good.

With some nice toast, a handful of fresh walnuts, and some strong black tea, you have yourself a pretty damn good breakfast.

After getting a feel for the starter and how it behaves, I branched out and decided to make crusty baguette-style bread and rye bread with the starter.

Here is one of the rye loaves, sprinkled throughout with caraway seeds. So tasty!

One last bonus bread, this one not sourdough:

This is Bryanna's European-style crusty bread recipe, and it is so great. This is the first time I have achieved a truly crusty bread with wonderful taste and texture. The only slight modifications I made to the recipe are that I used less wheat germ than called for (because I ran out), and that I added about a tablespoon of wheat gluten.

Whatever- this bread was excellent. My goal, as I practice with the sourdough more and more, is to achieve the texture, crust, and consistency of this bread in sourdough form.

Jody, thank you so much for bringing sourdough into our lives- it rocks!

Some of Bazu's tips and observations on sourdough so far:
  • Since sourdough can react with metal, I've only used glass or ceramic containers and wooden chopsticks to handle it. We keep it in a large pickle jar in the refrigerator, with the lid loosely placed on top
  • Why are there so many sourdough recipes on-line that call for yeast? Sourdough starter is its own yeast and rising agent- why "cheat" by adding yeast? (See, I've had this starter for two weeks and already I'm a sourdough snob!) But seriously- you don't need yeast if you're working with a starter.
  • Sourdough bread gets more sour as it cools and rests
  • To achieve the most sour bread possible, go with the longest rising time possible. San Francisco sourdough bread is often the product of 24-36 hours of rising! I find that long, cool temperature rising results in a flavor I like better than the quicker rising in warm temperatures. This is good- it means lots of yummy bread in the cold-weather months coming up!
  • Just to be safe, I have put a bit of our starter to "sleep" (i.e. froze it), in case something goes wrong with the batch we're working with.
  • I need a waffle maker- hello sourdough waffles!
Recipes from this post: (I didn't follow most of these recipes exactly, but played around with them- sourdough is incredibly forgiving)

Sourdough pancakes
Sourdough pizza dough
Crusty sourdough baguette and crusty rye bread (I loved the cornstarch baste trick- the breads came out glistening, enough to rival any egg wash)
Sourdough tips and tricks
Bryanna's European-style crusty bread

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the raspberry post

This past Saturday, Daiku and I finally got to do something that we've been wanting to do for weeks- go raspberry picking! You see, every time we decided to go to raspberry orchards, it would rain (they don't let you pick wet raspberries because of the risk for mold), or it would be a super-crowded holiday, so they would all be picked out, or we would be out of town or... well, you get the picture!

But this weekend, with the sun shining and the temperatures in the 80's seemed as good a time as any to head over to Henkel's Berry Patch, about 15 minutes north of Syracuse. Here are some scenes from our outing:

The skies were really dramatic and kept threatening to break into a storm, but thankfully, no rain fell. We did, however, see a few trees here and there with bright red and orange changing leaves.

We got to pick red and golden raspberries! The golden ones had a beautiful peachy-pink color to them. We even saw a few remaining currants still hanging around- they tasted so good!

We also got to enjoy quite a bit of floral goodness as we traipsed from patch to patch, leisurely filling our bucket and popping a few berries into our mouths as we went along.

Here's our full bucket buckled into the car preparing for the drive home. (We picked up a couple of fresh garlic bulbs as well- now that I know the pleasure of fresh-picked garlic, there is no turning back.)

To the right, you see the "raspberry of love" - shaped like a heart and bigger than a penny! Below, you see a couple of ways we enjoyed the berries once we brought them home- a smoothie and some flan topped by fresh ones. So far, we haven't done anything too fancy other than pop huge handfuls into our mouths. I froze about 2-3 pounds, though, so there will be no shortage of raspberries for future creations.

Ahhhh. Happiness, thy name is u-pick produce.

Here are some photogenic bales of hay and some raspberry bushes, bidding us goodbye as we left. With perfect days like this, I am finally beginning to feel that I have had the quintessential summery experiences that I've been longing for!


Monday, September 24, 2007

voodoo stew

I know there are two distinct camps out there- those who have had long hot Summers and are ready for Fall, and those who feel that Summer went by too fast (or never really came at all!) and therefore would like to squeeze out some last bits of seasonal warmth before embracing the coming chill in the air.

As you know, I'm in the second camp. And this entry and this recipe are for those of you who agree with me.

VOODOO STEW (makes enough to feed many, and to keep summer from leaving just yet)

Directions: On the first day you feel a distinctly Autumnal chill in the air, pull out your trusty crock pot.

Put into the crock pot in the following order: some onions sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and turmeric, then some diced potatoes and carrots sautéed with plenty more salt, pepper, paprika, and turmeric, then two fistfuls of barley (regular, unpearled, rinsed), one fistful of lentils (rinsed), three or four big fistfuls of roughly chopped kale, a bottle (12 oz.) of the summeriest beer you can find, and 1-2 bottles worth of veggie broth (24 oz. or ~ 3 cups- you'll need to watch your crock pot and add liquid as needed, depending on whether you want a very thick stew or a thinner one), and some righteous anger. This last ingredient is critical!

Set your crock pot to low and go away for 6-8 hours. Do something Summery, like lounging in a hammock.

Serve with some crusty bread and keep muttering under your breath how Summer better not leave yet. If you do everything just right, you might be successful, like I was, in bringing on some warmer weather. The last few days have been downright hot! For the next few days, I will be brining you Summery posts involving fruits, farmers markets, and other fun. Update 9/25 : I just heard that yesterday, the city of Syracuse beat the all-time record for heat- this stew really works!

Happy Autumn!

One year ago today: On 24 September 2006, I blogged about apple picking and Oktoberfest.


Friday, September 21, 2007

from Ireland to Laos and back

Syracuse is known as the "City of Festivals." Each summer and fall, we enjoy the multitude of festivals - celebrating different foods and drinks, nationalities and ethnic groups, and holidays- that go on downtown every weekend. A couple of weekends ago, Daiku and I, along with our friends Heather and Eric, got to go to Irish fest.

As we walked to the square, we saw that some people had gotten a unique and early start to the celebrations.

What festival is complete without food? Here I'm munching on fish and chips, sans fish, of course. I love dousing my fries in malt vinegar.

And here I am trying on some of the fashions on display.

Here are Eric, Heather, and Daiku listening to music. There was one band we all liked who reminded us of the Pogues. (Don't worry, they are all just teasing me with those looks- they actually love being constantly photographed, honest!)

We got to enjoy the live music as the sun was setting on a perfect summer day.

And then, it was time for dinner. Festival food is fun and all, but after all that grease, we wanted something light and refreshing, so we walked a block to Lao Village. This is probably my favorite restaurant in Syracuse, serving up really outstanding Laotian and Thai food, with plenty of vegan options. The super-friendly service and reasonable prices don't hurt either.
(Click here for my previous review of Lao Village).

Here is some of the food we shared. (left to right:) seitan pad prik pow, pineapple fried rice, and curry puffs. Daiku asked for his dish extra spicy, and as usual, they delivered.

We also noticed that they decorated his dish to look like a fish- isn't that adorable? The orange tail and the pepper lips and the scallion eye and the basil fins... or maybe it was a figment of our imaginations...

At Lao Village, I also got to meet someone who recognized me from this blog- how cool! Hi, Chrissie!

All in all, a nice night of music, food, fun, and friends. Perfect. And this weekend, we have our neighborhood street fair- I'm really looking forward to that!

Restaurant Info:
Lao Village

208 West Genesee St.
Syracuse, NY 13202
(315) 435-8151

One year ago today (almost): On 20 September 2006, I was blogging about, what else, the Walk for Farm Animals.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

quick meals and vegan wish fulfillment!

Daiku and I love making food from scratch - from grinding spices to baking bread, there is a definite satisfaction in seeing a meal come to fruition after some loving labor. However, life sometimes gets in the way for us, as I'm sure it does for many of you. On one busy night recently, we pulled out this "Naturally India" brand dehydrated simmer sauce to make a simple Indian-style meal.

It had everything we look for in convenience food: all-natural and vegan ingredients with no chemicals or preservatives, minimal and recyclable packaging, and a reasonable price.

We followed the recipe on the box, and voilà- an easy curried potato dish with tomatoes, onions, and peas, served over brown rice. We were pretty amazed by the tangy flavor- maybe from the green mango powder listed in the ingredients. Not bad at all for a meal out of a box. There were actually two sauce packets in the box- I look forward to the next time we pull this out for a quick and satisfying meal.

Another meal on the go, this time at the school cafeteria. I usually teach off-campus, so it's a rare occasion when I eat at school, but on this day, I couldn't resist- they were serving vegan grilled cheese sandwiches! I overheard a student in line behind me ask person behind the counter how you can make vegan grilled cheese. "What's in there?" he asked. The worker responded, "vegan cheese." The student was intrigued and picked up a sandwich to try, even though there was regular grilled cheese and even grilled cheese with ham also available. I hope he liked it- score another point for veganism!

My lunch was rounded out by some Tuscan roasted veggies (the black olives added a really nice flavor), a tossed salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar, a Silk soy yogurt, and an unsweetened raspberry iced tea. Who says cafeteria food has to suck?

Finally, some vegan wish fulfillment. While at the library doing research last week, I came across these medieval French illustrations in a journal. While I'm sure that at the time they represented a world order gone awry, they now strike me as pretty funny examples of wish fulfillment- not the wish for harm to come to humans, but the wish that humans would look seriously at how we treat animals and to think about our lack of empathy for their suffering.

In the first drawing, above, there is a mule whipping a human along as the human buckles under the enormous load on his back.

In the second drawing, a fish is fishing (humaning?) a person out of the water using a hook, while a small cat hunts a lion and a fish swoops in from the sky and snatches a bird out of the water.

The final, and most disturbing one, shows a cow butcher preparing to fillet a human, hung upside down by his feet to bleed.

I found these illustrations charming, and a tiny bit vindicating. Still, why must our relationships with others, human or animal, always hinge on power and dominance? Is there another way...?

* * *

One year ago today: On 18 September 2006, I was blogging about our neighborhood street fair - that's coming up again very soon!


Sunday, September 16, 2007

is this everything that's wrong with this country? pt. 2

An underlying premise of this blog is that thinking about food can be revolutionary. In this video from
Slate, the realms of criminal justice, business, agriculture, government food policy, violence, human rights and the class system at work in this country are woven together seamlessly. (I apologize for the weird spacing of the video- I couldn't control the width! Also, ignore the advertisement!)

Is this everything that's wrong with this country? Pt. 1 (Uncrustables)

One year ago today:
On 16 September 2006, I was blogging about our very first sushi making adventure!


Saturday, September 15, 2007

dandy eggplant warhol

After this post, a lot of you asked what Daiku and I ended up doing with the crazy, multi-knobbed white eggplant that we brought home from the farmers market.

Before I can answer that question, I must start by talking about another fantastic Melody tester recipe:

This was her Teriyake Glazed Tempeh, which we enjoyed with brown rice, garnished with toasted sesame seeds and scallions. The teriyake glaze was quite delicious, and the recipe left us with quite a bit extra. It was this extra glaze that we doctored up to make...

Miso-grilled eggplant! By adding some miso and rice vinegar to an already great sauce, we had the makings of a great marinade for the sliced eggplant. After marinading the eggplant for a while, we grilled it up, along with some pineapple slices and scallions. More marinade was brushed on everything as it grilled, adding moistness and flavor. I was amazed how sweet and lovely scallions become after being grilled.

These grilled goodies got served atop a bed of mixed greens (dressed with the marinade!), with a bit of brown rice and some more toasted sesame seeds. This was an incredibly satisfying meal, using flavors that we don't eat as frequently as we should!

Here's Mr. Eggplant in Warhol form. He's almost... lifelike, isn't he?...

**Walk For Farm Animals Update** To all who donated money, offered words of support and encouragement, or decided to embark on a walk of your own, thank you SO much! This is my first fundraising attempt, and it is already successful beyond my wildest expectations! There is still time to donate, by clicking on the widget on the sidebar or going directly to may page at: You guys all rock, and the farm animals will be very happy indeed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Walk for Farm Animals

Ithaca Walk for Farm Animals, October 2006

I can't believe it has already been a year since Daiku and I participated in Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals last October. Well, the time has come to register for this year's walk! In case you are interested, there are walks happening all over the country that you too can participate in. Click here to find the walk nearest you.

This year, I have created a fund-raising page with, to allow me to raise even more money for my walk. You can see the firstgiving logo to the right on the blog's sidebar, or you can go directly to my page to donate here:

Please consider donating to my walk, or participating in a walk of your own! Every dollar you donate is greatly appreciated by all the farm animals that Farm Sanctuary rescues and houses.

Thank you so much!

See my previous posts on the Walk here and here

More information on Farm Sanctuary:


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

living it up, farmers market style

So as many of you know, summer is still alive and well in my mind. I calmly go about my day, ignoring Halloween decorations in stores, pumpkins in the supermarkets, bloggers' posts about soups and pot pies, and the weather forecast that says Saturday's high in Syracuse will be around 50 degrees! La la la la la. What's that you hear? The sound of Bazu covering her ears and trusting the calendar that says it's still summer, goshdarnit!

Daiku and I made a trip to the farmers market and came home with the booty that you see, above. We got: tomatoes (red and yellow), romaine lettuce, broccoli rabe, garlic, canteloupe, plums,

And a couple of the wonkiest white eggplants you are likely to have ever seen!

First of all, can I say, fresh local garlic is a revelation?? Ok, for someone who supposedly blogs about the joys of local food, this is going to sound pretty lame, but I never really buy garlic at the farmers market. It's one of those things that's so easy to throw in your cart at the supermarket and then forget all about. But these huge bunches of garlic were so fresh, so fragrant, so potent, it was a revelation. Like much else, garlic tastes better when it hasn't been shipped for thousands of miles and stored for months. *slaps forehead*

So with this revelatory garlic, and the broccoli rabe and multi-colored tomatoes from the market (and some fresh basil and oregano from the garden), we made this pasta dinner. It's a really improvisational dish, so I won't give a recipe, rather a guide to what I did:
  • boil some water for pasta, boil some water for the broccoli rabe
  • blanch the broccoli rabe by dunking it in salted boiling water for 1 minute, drain
  • while pasta is cooking, warm up a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil on medium-low heat
  • add a bunch of red pepper flakes and crushed garlic, allowing them to release their fragrance
  • add drained broccoli rabe, some salt, and pepper to the oil and heat through
  • turn off heat, add some diced tomatoes, a tiny bit more of garlic, and some chopped fresh basil and oregano to the mixture. cover and allow the flavors to blend
  • drain pasta and add it to the veggie mixture. stir to combine, then serve, garnishing with more fresh basil and oregano.
  • from chopping to dinner on the table in way less than 30 minutes - take THAT, Rachael Ray!

These Italian plums remind me of my mom, who used bring home huge amounts of them, and then laugh as I would proceed to eat them all. They are just so fragrant and delicious, with sweet flesh and tart skin, the way a plum should be!

And perfect for baking, too! When I saw this recipe on Emmie's blog for almond plum pie, I just knew I had to have it! I saved it for a special occasion and made it for our anniversary last week. Oh man, it's good. I'm not much of a pie baker, so these pictures aren't that great, but I assure you, the pie is. I loved the cinnamon/cardamom/almond combination, it was definitely the perfect flavor combo.

I didn't have the apricot marmalade called for in the glaze, so I used plum jam instead. I think it worked o.k. Thanks, Emmie!

As for the mutant eggplants? That's for a future post...

One year ago today: What I was blogging about on 12 September 2006