Thursday, March 27, 2008

a different kind of birthday cake

I love a good stack of pancakes. Usually, it's a weekend treat, but lately, I've been craving them every morning. Because today is my birthday, I've allowed myself to indulge several mornings throughout the past week. This is actually a good thing- no breakfast fills me up or gives me more energy than pancakes. One day, having grown a little tired of the same old same old, I came up with this recipe- these cakes come with a twist: a little savory, with a hint of olive oil and a satisfying texture, they are the perfect combination of pancake and griddle cake. They'd be good for breakfast, brunch, or even dinner with something savory like some potatoes or tempeh bacon on the side. Give them a try- it's my birthday gift to you!

Sweet 'n Savory Griddle Cakes (makes 8-10)
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1 C unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C cornmeal
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TB ground flax seeds
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 1/3 cup orange juice
Mix vinegar and soymilk in a large measuring cup, stir, and allow to rest and curdle while you mix the dry ingredients. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda well. Add flax meal, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla extract to the soymilk/vinegar mixture and whisk well until mixed. Next, add enough orange juice for the liquid mixture to reach 1.5 cups.

Add liquid to dry mixture and mix gently with a fork or a whisk. Don't overmix, a few small lumps remaining are o.k. If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of water or other liquid to thin out a bit, but not too much- the mixture should still fairly thick.

Pour batter by about 1/3 cup fulls onto lightly greased griddle, and flip when edges are done and the pancakes are a perfect golden-brown color. Serve with your favorite toppings- I went with classic Earth Balance and maple syrup here.


P.S. It was fun reading some of your guesses after my last post, and I really like Rural Vegan's idea about starting a pool to guess what my surprise announcement is going to be. You guys can keep guessing and whoever comes closest gets a prize from me. I promise I will let you guys all know soon. Cheers!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yellow Rose testing deliciousness

Woah-the sun is out! (For the moment, I'll forget that it's only about 33 degrees outside). The days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger, and suddenly, it's like a great big weight has been lifted off my chest! Suddenly, food photography is possible again, since I can cook and eat before it's dark. (Let's face it, food photos almost never look good without sunlight, right?) I feel like my blogging soul is arising from a long, depressing slumber and I can come back into the living world again. I have lots of food and recipes to share with you.

Today, I want to start with some tester recipes. Any of you who have Joanna's Yellow Rose Recipes book and love it as much as I do will be ecstatic to hear that she is at work on a second book! (Click here to visit Joanna's blog) This time around, I lucked out by being chosen as a recipe tester. Let me show you what I've made just in the past week- if these are any indication, the next few months are going to rock around my house.

First up, falafel. Yes, falafel. Those of you who remember me talking about eating tons of these in Paris will think I'm crazy when I tell you that I came home and made some more! But this recipe sounded so good, and I'd never made falafel from scratch before so I knew I'd want to give it a shot. And I'm glad I did- these are so light and flavorful, not heavy or greasy. I loved the fresh herbs in these.

Next up we have curried roasted squash soup- this soup came together in mere minutes, but the flavor is so deep and complex. Perfect for the still nippy weather we're having around here!

Next up, we have maple ginger tempeh. These blew my mind! I'm not usually a fan of tempeh bacon, but these had a perfect balance of sweet and smoky and savory- Daiku and I ate them up very quickly. They are equally good as breakfast or brunch, or in more savory creations like sandwiches or wraps.

Next up, we have a duo of chick salads- southern style with grapes (left) and curry-flavored with nuts and golden raisins (right). These were easy to make, and the flavors are so right on! Perfect as a sandwich filling, or on crackers, or just straight up as I'm eating some now. If you need a quick lunch or snack, or ever crave good old fashioned chicken salad (hold the cruelty), you will love these salads.

Here they are on marble rye toast for breakfast:

Yay for recipe testing, and yay for sunshine. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm back on the cooking and eating (and blogging!) track.

2 more happy things:

First, today is Trac's birthday! Go over there and wish her a happy one. I have been very lucky to meet someone this awesome and interesting right here in Syracuse. Happy birthday you rocking running vegan, you!

Secondly, I have some big, wonderful, fantastic, awesome news!!!!! But it's a secret. I'm dying to share with everyone, but am not at liberty yet, until it is for sure. So for now all I can say is YAY! (sorry, don't you hate when people do this?...)


Saturday, March 22, 2008

morning at père lachaise

Most of our trip to Paris was marked by cold temperatures, gray skies, and pouring rain. On a rare sunny morning, Daiku and I decided to head to the Père Lachaise cemetery, a major attraction that neither of us had visited before. Like many old cemeteries, the Père Lachaise is strangely vibrant, speaking to life much more than to death. It's a lovely place for reflection, and it turned out to have been one of my favorite parts of our trip, so I thought I would share some images with you. We thought we would take a brisk walk through the place, but ended up spending over 2 hours meandering through a much larger space than imagined (and yet we saw only a small fraction)! For more photos, check out my Père Lachaise set on Flickr.

What I love about this place is its radical democracy- the most prominent and the most anonymous people, from all religions and nationalities, lie side by side. You see grand shrines and small headstones with their lettering worn down after hundreds of years. French families residing in Paris for generations share space with immigrants, refugees, and travelers.

In addition, the cemetery has special meaning for leftists, with famous radicals buried there, from those killed in the Paris Commune to members of the Communist Party.

It's easy to forget that you are in a major urban area until you come up to a hill that gives you a clear view of the surrounding city.

Considering that it's the most famous and most visited cemetery in the world, we saw precious few people there during our visit. Those we did see all seemed to be overtaken by a sense of calm and contemplation, as were we.

Signs of life everywhere- from bright grass and moss growing on old graves...

... to snails resting on tombstones.

Mausoleums in various states of gentle...

...and not so gentle disrepair.

Everywhere we turned, there was an insistence on recognizing and emphasizing beauty- youth and vitality struggling to triumph over death and decay.

a sense only amplified by the sunshine, long missing before this morning.

Even though we weren't really looking for them, we did see some resting places of famous people, including the painter Delacroix,

the singer Edith Piaf,

and the philosopher Merleau-Ponty. We noticed that we were there 2 days before the 100-year anniversary of his birth (March 14, 1908). I though back sadly at the 2000 presidential debate where G.W. Bush and Al Gore were asked to name their favorite philosophers. Gore answered Merleau-Ponty while Bush, clearly unable to think of a single actual philosopher, named Jesus. It hurts the brain too much to think of what the last 8 years would have been like had we elected a president who could actually think philosophically... so I won't go there right now.

Of course, the feeling of calm was punctuated by poignant reminders of where we were, with monuments to grief and tragedy on both grand levels, like this one of many remembrances of those killed in the Holocaust,

and on deeply and heartrendingly personal levels like this obelisk erected in the early 1800s by a man in order to mark the loss of his two sons and his wife. You can almost sense his sadness as he promises that they are waiting for him.

In an otherwise harried trip, it was really rejuvenating to have this chance to slow down and think about the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the season of rebirth and renewal, and to do it in a place filled with humanity in its simplest and grandest forms.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

happy norooz!

Happy Norooz, everybody. Today is the first day of spring and is also celebrated as New Year in Iran. I got home from France too late to grown any greens this year, so this photo is from last year! I will be cooking some green food tonight, though, in the hopes that spring will actually show its face in Syracuse! Meanwhile, check out my Norooz posts from last year (here and here) for some recipes and ideas. I hope it's warm, sunny, and spring-like wherever you all are!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

paris eats

Hi! I'm finally ready to start my posts about Paris. I've been back home for a few days, but have had a hard time organizing my thoughts (and my photos!) about our eating in Paris. The main reason is that, while there are tons of vegetarian restaurants in Paris and people were kind enough to recommend lots of good options for us, we didn't really have many sit-down meals, especially at nice restaurants, while we were there.

The reasons for this are:

A) We rented an apartment instead of staying at a hotel, thus allowing us to cook and eat at home
B) We were very busy and pressed for time, so scheduling a relaxed meal was very difficult

and, most importantly,

C) Money! The Euro (€) hit an all-time high against the dollar the day before we left for France. Of course a city like Paris has always been expensive, but we're talking inflation-level stuff here.

That's right folks- if you live in the U.S., I highly recommend investing in a wheelbarrow now, since that's how you'll be carrying around the millions of increasingly worthless dollars that you'll need to take to the store to buy a loaf of bread. The € jumped up not once, but twice, in the week that we were there. It was almost comedic. Well, tragicomic. Anyway, I digress.

So on the one hand, I feel that I might be a disappointing food blogger. Even though I walked by really nice looking and highly recommended places like Le Grenier de Notre Dame, Le Potager du Marais, Victoire Suprême du Coeur, and La Nature à Paris (photo below), I didn't go in.

That being said, though, I didn't go hungry all week! Here are some mosaics of what I did eat while in Paris:

Starting off with the most important, baguettes! I bought my first one within an hour of touching down in Paris, and my last two as I was leaving. (I traveled with loaves of bread in my backpack!) My favorite bakery was in our Montmartre neighborhood, although I made sure to, ah, test as many bakeries as I could.

Moving on, produce! I was surrounded by fresh fruits and veggies everywhere I went, especially on Sunday, when we were lucky to have a market right on our street. It was so fun to try different fruits (currants!), but even funner to watch people coming and going and filling their bags with everything on offer. I wish we had market days!

Produce was relatively affordable, especially considering that in the E.U. GMOs and certain pesticides are banned, thus making everyday fruit practically the equivalent of what we would pay a premium for as organic.

However, there were plenty of certified organic (biologique or bio) goodies to be had too, both fresh and packaged.

Above are just some of the things I survived on in Paris: (top to bottom, left to right) vegetarian pâté (there were so many types and flavors to choose from), non-dairy milks of all kinds (I wish I could have tried more! Banana milk!), soy yogurts of all kinds, of which Soja Douceur was by FAR my favorite (more on that later), chocolate and apricot/guava soy yogurts, tofu patties, caramel soy pudding, green tea/chai soymilk, and a typical meal of baguettes, spreads, veggies, fruits, and wine in our apartment.

Edit: While the health food stores were wonderful, I also found tons of good things at regular supermarkets such as Monoprix. They had soy milks and creams, juices, spreads, etc. and Monoprix even has its own line of bio foods.

Soja Douceur, let me sing thine praises! This stuff was almost otherworldly- creamy, sweet, luscious. If liquids were not banned in carry-on luggage, I would have brought tons of this stuff home. Quite easily the BEST soy yogurt I've ever had (although the liquid texture made it somewhere between yogurt and keffir.) Daiku and I tried the red fruits (above), and vanilla, and he agreed that it was much tastier than the stuff we get at home.

These were just some of the stuff we found at Naturalia and other health food stores (visible because of their big BIOLOGIQUE signs). I lucked out, since there was a Naturalia steps from our apartment on Rue Lepic.

But of course, how could I forget falafel? There isn't much I can say about falafels in Paris other than, they were relatively affordable, pretty easy to find, and served with much huger amounts of vegetables and toppings than they usually are here in the U.S. As you can see in the above mosaic, it wasn't uncommon to get falafels piled high with fried eggplants, french fries, pickles of all kinds, peppers, salad, beets, the works! Lots of people had recommended L'As du Falafel on Rue des Rosiers (top right), but I much preferred the sandwich at Chez Marianne, half a block over. Not only were the sandwiches slightly cheaper, but they came with those succulent eggplants, and their pickles were some of the best I've ever had.

We were clearly not the only ones searching for falafel on the Rue des Rosiers, as you can see by this line of people.

Two tips for buying falafel: it is cheaper, by several dollars to buy take-away than to sit down inside. And, you usually order in a different window than where you pick up- don't waste time waiting in a line only to find out it's the pick-up line!

All those things, plus a bit of

and a little...

and we were more or less set! Wine and beer are affordable in Paris, especially if you stick to local stuff. For example, we drank lots of Belgian beer (Leffe, Stella Artois), which tended to be cheap there but costs a pretty penny here.

Having said all that, my friend Sharon did take us to one restaurant with several vegetarian specialties on the menu, La fourmi ailée. This was a cozy little place in the Latin Quarter with books on the shelves and strange paintings on the walls. It looked like a place that couples chose for a romantic meal, with the candle light making for a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Sharon ordered her favorite vegan lasagne, above. It was very tasty and hearty, with tofu and vegetable fillings and an amazingly tangy tomato sauce.

I ordered the mushroom quiche. Now, even though I believe that it is easy to eat good and interesting vegan food in Paris, I don't want to give the misleading impression that everything is rosy and that a large percentage of people are aware of and sympathetic to veganism- that is simply not the case. To be vegan in Paris, you do have to compromise, be on your toes, and be savvy. Case in point at this restaurant: when ordering the quiche I asked, in French, if it had eggs in it. (The menu said it was a tofu quiche, but I figured it could have tofu and eggs, safer to ask). The waitress informed me that it didn't have eggs in it, but she couldn't guarantee me that the pastry wouldn't have been made with butter because, in her words, "you need butter to cook." This is at a vegetarian/vegan-friendly restaurant! It's true that the concept of living entirely dairy free is not common in France- this is where the smattering of restaurants even bothering to offer vegetarian plates mean things loaded with eggs and several kinds of cheese.

Anyway, I decided to order the quiche anyway. It was pretty good, and the salad that it came with was an excellent accompaniment.

I couldn't leave without mentioning one last thing:

Coffee. Now, most of you know that I'm not much of a coffee drinker, much preferring tea in my everyday life. I do appreciate a good cup of coffee now and again, but it's definitely not something I'm very attached to.

Well, scratch that. I'm obsessed. I managed to have the world's best espresso at a café near the Place de Republique. It was indescribably transcendent. It was sharp without being bitter or sour. It was balanced. It was creamy. It was redolent with faint yet cloying notes of hazelnut and liqueur. It was resplendent. It was surreal. I would have married that cup of coffee if I could. After that, I happily accompanied Daiku and we drank cup after cup after cup of the stuff. (They were all good, but never quite the same as that first cup, alas.)

Some tips for ordering coffee in Paris:
  • you want espresso. you do not want coffee. don't argue with me on this.
  • to order espresso, ask for an "express" or a "café express" - simply ordering a coffee, especially if they suspect you are American, runs you the risk of being served a "café Americain" - espresso thinned out with hot water. This won't taste as good, will cost you several extra Euros, and well, they'll probably laugh at you behind your back
  • it is always cheaper, sometimes by 50%, to drink standing up at the bar. Usually an espresso at the bar will run you about 1€, while being served that same espresso will cost 2€. This is fair- it is the cost of having servers, especially because you are not expected to leave tips. Sometimes that extra € is totally worth having a warm place to sit, and ordering just one coffee reserves you the right to stay there, unbothered, for hours and hours. However, if a place charges that much more than 2€ for a simple espresso, it's a tourist trap- approach with caution. In the above mosaic, you see Daiku and me standing at the bar of our neighborhood cafe, enjoying .80€ espressos. Pretty damn good deal.
I have a couple more Paris posts up my sleeve- I hope you enjoyed this one!


Monday, March 03, 2008

taking my research seriously

These are the lengths I am willing to go for my research for Hezbollah Tofu.** That's right, in less than 4 days, Daiku and I will be in Paris, tracking down the best veggie food France has to offer. I'm freaking out a little here trying to get ready and have everything packed while also planning my class for this week and keeping the house in order. But I'm excited! I will try to keep blogging, but as you know, my travel blogging doesn't always go as planned. I will be back by March 15. Au revoir, mes amis!

** I actually mean research for my dissertation, but it sounds so much less exciting!