Monday, November 26, 2007

3 of my favorite things

Another night, another VeganMoFo. Before I get started, I want to thank all of you so much for your thought-provoking and intelligent comments to
last night's post. I can't respond to each of you individually, since your answers are so rich and multi-faceted, so I want to thank you collectively for carrying on the conversation. Questions of sustainability and social justice in relation to food are probably in the forefront of many of our minds, and it's always exciting to hear new perspectives on the matter.

Ok, on to tonight's post. I will show & tell three of my favorite things, food-wise.

1. Polish plum jam. My friend Dorota introduced this to me, and now I'm so addicted, I always have at least 2 or 3 jars stockpiled in the house. This is the only jam that I can eat with a spoon, straight out of the jar. The only ingredients are plums and sugar, so I don't know how they manage to get such a perfect flavor- tangy, sweet, rich, and awesome. If you have a Polish grocer near you, do yourself a favor and look for this brand of plum jam. It's perfect for toast, muffins, and hot cereal, yet complex enough to be used for sauces and savory recipes.

2. Porto Rico Importing Co. coffee sellers. They have two locations on New York City, or you can click over and order from them on-line. Porto Rico sells a wide variety of freshly roasted coffee (including many organic and fair-trade varieties), in addition to teas, flavoring syrups, and coffee and tea paraphernalia (like mugs, teapots, strainers, coffee makers, etc.) I can't even begin to tell you how delicious their coffees are. Any time either Daiku or I are in New York City, we buy a pound or two to bring back. For high quality coffee, their prices are beyond reasonable (often no more than $5-$6 a pound on sale). However, nothing beats the sale we stumbled upon when we were there a few weeks ago- an anniversary special blend for only $.85 !! Less than a dollar a pound for premium coffee! The only catch was that there was a limit of one pound per person. This problem was solved thanks to our lovely friends who agreed to help us out- and we walked away with 6 pounds of coffee- enough to last us through the year. Score!

3. Number three is a bit silly. You see, I'm hopelessly attached to this little rubber spatula. I bought it in 1995 on my first ever visit to Ikea (I believe it was the Burbank location). I picked up a 2-pack of these rubber spatulas, one large and this small one. It is the small one that I have become dependent upon- it is the perfect size, shape, width, and thickness, and the feel of the material is perfect. The sharp edge helps me to scrape the last bit of batter from a mixing bowl, the last bit of dressing from a jar, the last bit of food from a pot. When I'm blending something in my stand mixer, this helps me scrape the sides. When I'm making something in the magic bullet blender, this helps me to push the ingredients down. I use it at least once a day. I have bought a few similar spatulas, knowing that this one would eventually have to be retired, but none have been a perfect fit for me. I'm ruined for spatulas!

... which is too bad, because as you can see in the above photo, this poor little guy has to go! If any of you have a spatula you are particularly fond of (preferably silicone, which might last longer than the rubber), please let me know! Until then, I'll be clinging on to this perfect, humble, almost 13 year-old kitchen helper.



Emily said...

hey, bazu--

ok, totally unrelated to your post (although i have a nice silicone brand to recommend, just standard from the cookery store, but the head comes off which makes it easier to wash), but i desperately need to pick a vegan baker's brain. earth balance: have you ever made pie crust with it? does it cut into flour properly, like butter would? do i need to find it in stick form? HOW DOES TEH EARTH BALANCE WURK?

having a slight panic as i plan my first attempt at catering...

Calimaryn said...

Oh spatulas, how I love them. It is so hard to find one that suits perfectly. I think they are simply fickle. One may have a perfect handle but be the wrong sized head, while another has a perfect scoop shaped head but the handle is not heat proof. I currently have two silicone but the handles can easily melt if you let them rest on the edge of a pan. Plus the heads pop off so you have to clean inside the cavity extra good. It makes me sad.

Someday I hope to find the perfect spatula of solid silicone in the correct size, shape and curvature. Until then I soldier on with almost perfect ones bought from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Good luck in finding your spatula soul mate!

Rural Vegan said...

Oh Bazu, Santa really needs to bring you a new spatula this year! You made me laugh though because I have a silicone spatula I absolutely adore. I bought it from Amazon years ago and then they stopped carrying it! So I actually use it sparingly because I don't want it to end up looking like yours! :P

We used to have a Polish grocer in the area who sold plum jam for 99 cents a jar. Sadly, they closed up and took their cheap, delicious plum jam with them.

Tami said...

I think you need a new spatula, too-- but I know how easy it is to get attached to something like that.

Mmm... that jam sounds wonderful!

bazu said...

Hi Emily!
I replied to you on your blog, but thought I'd post here too, in case anyone else was interested:

Yes, I use Earth Balance sticks for making pie crusts, and they work really well. I usually cut them into little pieces and freeze them for a few moments before I begin. I find that a really good pastry cutter and/or a stand mixer really help in the process. Some recipes also call for (non-hydrogenated) shortening to be used in pie crusts in addition to EB, and those work well, too. Personally I usually add the tiniest bit of soy sour cream to my crusts (1 TB or so) to add tenderness, but I don't think it's a requirement. Recently for Thanksgiving, we followed a fellow blogger's advice and added a bit of vodka to our crust (vodka apparently helps to cut the gluten strands, so you get a flakier texture), and that seemed to work really well too.
Good luck with your catering job! I'd love to hear how it goes.

SaraJane said...

Oh, delicious plum jam. I have never had the polish kind, but the market near my house has this french kind that is also just plums and water. Soooo yummy. I've only ever spread it on toast and the like. What sort of savory sauces do you make with it? Now I'm intrigued. I'd love to see a recipe using that seeing as how I love it to bits also.

And I have to say - you've inspired me to do a sort of 3 of my own - but more specifically, the 3 ways that Vancouver rocks for vegans. I'm totally going to take my camera out this weekend and do that. Thanks for the idea!

the pleasantly plump vegan said...

i have severe attachments to some of my cooking utensils, inclusing a spatula. my fave spatula is from Williams-Sonoma

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

Hi there Bazu! I've been absent from commenting (and reading) for awhile, but love your posts!

I cannot believe you still have that spatula. That is very funny because we all have things like that we get attached to. I just broke a bowl recently, but Ryan and I still have it!

I'll have to try this plum jam you speak so highly about...I'll keep my eyes open for it.

Hannah said...

Oh my goodness, I know what you mean about the spatula! I have one that exact size and I always reach for it first- it's the one I took to school with me, after all. I don't remember actually buying it, but the handle says William Sonoma... Oh, here you go: (The smallest one!)

Carrie™ said...

Your spatula photo made me chuckle. I have a spatula that I got from Pampered Chef and I don't know what I'd do without it. It's got a long handle and is a skinny one as well. It's great for getting the last bit of peanut butter out of the jar (and other assorted chores).

aTxVegn said...

I thought that spatula was a popsicle. Silicone spatulas abound at department stores and kitchen specialty stores, and they're not white anymore, Bazu! I've never bought one online, but I can advise to make sure you get one with a wooden handle b/c the metal ones get really hot if you leave them in a pot.

My favorite jam was my grandmother's homemade plum. I'll look for that Polish jam next time I'm at an international market.

Anonymous said...

I have (and love) one of those old rubber spatulas too! And, scarily enough, mine looks *very* similar to yours! You have been smart to be buying others over the years, knowing that yours would one day finally HAVE to be thrown away (sniff, sniff)--I have not been so forward thinking, and would be lost without mine!


VeggieGirl said...

that plum jam is quite intriguing - yum!

haha I use rubber spatulas just like yours, except they're not as "bent out of shape" as yours - poor spatula!! I'm afraid you may have to let go of it soon :0(

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem as you and I just bought a new, very similar spatula. I love it and it was only $2. It was at a random shop here and I'm not sure if they have anymore but if they do I'll pick you up one and email you to get your address.

Candi said...

Bazu, if you have to get rid of that old spatula, you've given it a great memorial in this blog post! ;) Pictures to remember it by!

Mmm, plum jam? :P :P

Emmie said...

That spatula is 13 years old? I was but a wee lass back then... how old are you anyway? ;p

I know what you mean about spatulas though. I've gone through a few and it's so difficult finding the perfect one. I had a really awesome silicone one, it was perfect in every way, and then Alex broke it! It snapped and there I was, sad and spatula-less!

Village Vegan said...

haha, I have a favorite white spatula from Ikea, too! I hope it lasts as long as yours has. I kind of wish I hadn't gotten the white one, because now it's horribly stained, but oh well.

I LOVE that kind of plum jam. It's so good and thik and sweet-tart and just wonderful. My parents live in Montenegro, and all their neighbors make this kind of jam every fall. I always pick up a few jars everytime I visit them.