Saturday, November 27, 2010

Digressions

One of the best lines I´ve read in a long time: Dr. Le Pileur, working during World War I and remarking on the fact that after traumatic injuries the second biggest health issue was rampant syphilis, “Without a doubt, it would be better to be chaste, but chastity is like peace; we always talk about it and we don't often keep it.” If only I were a French doctor I could be so eloquent.

Other awesome things present in my life this week:

     A Single Man- every frame of this movie is like a perfume ad (the non CK heroin-addled kind).        It´s also refreshingly upfront about gay sexuality (neither of these things are surprising given that      Tom Ford is the director)
     That Cee Lo song (be warned that profanity is unavoidably implied in clicking that link) that            everyone else in the world seems to heard of before me, but what can I say, I'm a little late to          the table these days
     More importantly, and most likely far longer lasting, Your Precious Love by Tammi Terrel and        Marvin Gaye 

Not so awesome? Obama giving George H. W. Bush the Medal of Freedom. Really? Really?

But I digress. 
     The very best "Save the Date" card in the probably not so very long history of "Save the Date"        cards from a college friend (proof that those 4 years of liberal arts education wan´t for nothing)


Also, delicious bok choy, at my brother Max´s request.

Bok Choy with Spicy Peanuts
     adapted from Deborah Madison´s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

3 Tbsp. raw unsalted peanuts
2 tsp. sesame oil 
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt
1 1/2 lbs. bok choy, stems removed from leaves and chopped into 1-in. pieces (leaves remain whole) 
2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tsp. minced ginger 
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp. water

In a wok or a skillet, fry peanuts in the sesame oil over medium-low until golden (be careful not to let them burn, which can happen very quickly). Remove them from the pan and chop them with the pepper flakes and a big pinch salt.
Turn the heat up as high as possible and add the peanut/vegetable oil, swirling it once around the sides of the pan. When the oil is hot, throw in the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 min. (don´t let them burn). Add in the bok choy and a big pinch of salt and stir-fry until the leaves are wilted. Add in the soy sauce and the cornstarch mixture and stir-fry a bit more until the leaves are shiny and glazed, 1-2 min. Toss in the chopped peanuts and a drizzle of sesame oil, and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Bringing Water Balloons

Oh look, they´re throwing oranges on the field!

That was me, a couple of weekends ago, at my first Argentine soccer game, that hollowed event legendary for its displays of passion, ruckus and occasional violence. I´d never been at a sports event before where the fans of the opposing sides were completely physically isolated from one another. And this game was Boca-Independiente, Boca being the Argentine team most known for its nutso fans.

The Independiente fans-- the team not known particularly for its nutso fans-- were the ones throwing stuff on the field and chanting "Go back to Bolivia, all your family is there!" "You brought us the cholera!" because according to Argentinean soccer folklore (according to fans of teams that aren't Boca that is) no true Argentine is a Boca fan, they are all Bolivians and Paraguayans (which due to the xenophobic feelings many Argentines have towards Bolivians and Paraguayans is considered an insult).  A couple of years ago a law was passed outlawing xenophobic songs during soccer matches. Obviously it's had a big affect.

But wait! Those aren´t oranges on the field. They´re balls of fried dough-- Bolivian fried dough, you see-- and those cute little umbrellas that are put in cocktails (umbrella=paraguas=paraguay).

The loudspeaker came on, warning the crowd that the game couldn´t start if they kept throwing things onto the field, and that it wouldn´t start if the offensive chants didn´t stop.

I do have to say, as far as throwing things on the field goes, the strangest thing I´ve ever heard of is the Detroit fans who throw octopi onto the hockey rink. My jaw was on the floor the last time I was in Detroit and my uncles off-handedly mentioned that Michigan residents are prohibited from buying octopus in fish markets on game days in other states. 

Personally I think water balloons have got to be the best thing to throw, though cabbages would probably be pretty satisfying too, with their nice heft and leaves splaying out in the air. Though I would want to eat the cabbage after and that seems like an untenable plan. I'm also kind of oddly impressed that people went to the trouble to fry dough balls just to toss them on the soccer field. I would have just wanted to eat them too (says the person who made donuts for dinner last night).

My mom used to buy cabbage instead of lettuce when there were lettuce boycotts, and then I think she just got used to it at a certain point and bought it even if the lettuce was PC that week. I love cabbage and I eat it all the damn time, most often cooked with apples, german grandmother style, or in mayonaise-less coleslaw with lime juice and cilantro. Lately though I´ve been making it in two very different styles which I highly recommend. First we have green cabbage sauteed with fennel, spices, and amchoor (green mango powder), which gives it an addictive sour and salty tang. If you don´t have amchoor, lemon juice works too. Second of all is a red cabbage salad that is sweet, sour and salty, one of those things that is so good that you make for lunch and all you want to do is make it again for dinner. I should say that I think it´s still a bit weird for me to make recipes that are not vegetarian friendly. This salad I made with chicken originally but I think seitan or tofu could be used really well there too; the only non-replaceable non-veg item is fish sauce, which if you are a vegetarian, depending on your own personal dietary boundaries may or may not be an issue for you. All of that said: make this salad, it´s delicious. It will have whoever eats it skyping you at work to find out what you put in it. Or don't, so at least you can get some work done.


Tangy Indian Cabbage

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
half large bulb fennel, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
half large red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced 
half head green cabbage, thinly sliced
pinch red chili flakes or 1 fresh chili, deseeded, deribbed and finely sliced
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. amchoor (green mango powder) or the juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt

Melt the oil and butter together over med-high heat. Saute the cumin and mustard seeds until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then toss in the fennel and onion and saute until soft and beginning to caramelize a bit, around 8 minutes. Add the turmeric and a pinch of salt and stir, and then add the cabbage gradually as it cooks down and enough room is made in the pan to hold all of it. Throw in the chili if you feel like a bit of heat. Cover the pan and lower the heat, stirring occasionally to get the caramelized bits off the bottom, until the cabbage is quite soft, around 25-30 minutes. Taste for salt (it might need quite a bit; add in the amchoor and lemon juice and check again) and stir in the amchoor or lemon juice.
I had this as part of my lunch the other day with some roasted beets and the sweetness of the beets worked great with the lemony saltiness of the cabbage-- or as a filling for a crepe.



Vietnamese Red Cabbage Salad
     adapted from Orangette

1-2 small red or yellow chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. rice vinegar (white vinegar can be used too)
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (I used lemon because limes here are crazy expensive)
4 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I normally use sunflower)
1 red onion, peeled, halved, and very thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 c. cold cooked shredded chicken, shredded seitan, or smoked/pressed tofu cut into thin strips
1 ½ lbs red cabbage, quartered, cored, and very thinly sliced (about 8 cups, sliced)
½ lb red radishes, thinly sliced into rounds
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro

In a very large bowl, whisk together the chiles, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, and oil. Add the red onion and a grind or two of black pepper, stir to cover the onion in liquid, and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes while you shred the chicken/seitan or slice the tofu. Add in the protein, and let marinate for another 15 minutes while you slice the cabbage and radishes. Add the cabbage and radishes, and toss gently to coat with dressing. Add the cilantro, and toss to mix. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bring On The Grunge

Awhile ago we found ourselves in one of the many grungily beautiful cafes of Buenos Aires, there for a casually organized jam session that was actually really a birthday party (Was it weird that we didn't know the birthday girl? Kinda. They gave us cake anyway.)


The walls were covered with definitions of lunfardo, an Argentine slang with Italians roots that was originally used by prisoners in the jails here. But it's now been around for many years and has its own nostalgic elegance. I have a hard time imagining that even after the passage of 100 years, the words "ho" and "grip" might evoke anything as poetic as Carlos Gardel in a derby hat. I also find it unlikely that grimy La-Z-Boy recliners will find any hidden glamour after the passage of a century. At any rate I can tell you that from my experience, in the here and now nowhere does grungy antique chic quite like Buenos Aires. 
See these cookies?


You can´t tell by the picture, but as far as I´m concerned they are the picture of gritty elegance as far as cookies go. They aren´t so pretty, and their rustic black and whiteness would make them entirely at home in a run down tango bar. But, oh, wow, they are so good in every way, and though you didn´t know they were missing from your life you will know soon, right after you make them for the first time. Buckwheat might sound a bit too health foodish and slightly grannyish for a cookie, but trust me, it works-- it makes for a wonderfully soulful, deep-flavored and slightly nutty-tasting butter cookie, classy without being flashly. Consider it a start to the legacy.

Buckwheat Cookies
     adapted from Alice Medrich

8 oz. (2 sticks or 225 g.) butter, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. (5.6 oz. or 160 g.) white flour
3/4 c. (3 oz. or 85 g.) buckwheat flour


Beat the butter, sugar and salt together until creamy, about 1 min. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flours and mix just until incorporated. Bring the dough together with your hands to create a coherent mass and form it into a log 2 inches thick. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight, wrapped in plastic. 
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the log into 1/4 in. thick slices. Place the cookies on a baking sheet leaving 1 1/2 in. between the cookies to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies begin to color around the edges, rotating the baking sheet 180º after 5 min. Gently remove the cookies from the sheet to a rack, then continue with the rest of the dough. Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies.