Sunday, August 8, 2010
Dear all you sweet and lovely people that have been requesting a blog update:
It's just the nature of blogs... to occasionally get neglected! However, I am in Bangalore at the moment, eating tons of fantastic Indian food (and some not so brilliant Italian food :))! And I have lots to say about it all, as usual. And recipes for you. And I'll see if I can remember pictures too...
So, this is a post to appease you.. and maybe tease you... and a real one is coming very soon!
Love (and tons of ayurvedic food) from India ♥
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
My birthday this year was a truly delightful day. I received a pasta roller! And proceeded to spend the entire day (luxury of luxuries!) cooking an Italian meal for a few close friends.
The one thing that I wish to impress upon the world from this experience is that egg-free fresh pasta is not only possible, but wonderful.
My current working "recipe":
3 parts white flour
1 part chickpea flour
olive oil (some)
salt (large pinch)
Knead until silky smooth. Proceed to roll out as per pasta maker's instructions (ie. many many times). Let dry briefly. Boil very briefly. Rinse well with cold water. Return to pot to heat with olive oil and season.
Since my first try, seen here, where we made garlic and squash filled ravioli to go with a
margherita pizza and white bean bruschetta, I have had wonderful luck with fettucini, and as of yet, problems with lasagne noodles. But I'm working that out now, and will soon post a wonderful vegan lasagna recipe...
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Here I am! With raw white chocolate hearts for everyone, to make up for being the most absent blogger in history! School and my beloved thesis have been keeping me quite occupied since... September. But many lovely food adventures have taken place since then. Like over Christmas, when the brilliant Jeffery, founder of Rawesome Foods, not only let me in his magnificent workshop of a kitchen, but let me (having no experience in chocolate making OR raw dessert making) create my own chocolate recipe. The fudge (which, admittedly, I had envisioned as solid chocolate but which decided to incarnate as fudge at some point during its birth) was incredibly rich and delicious and sweet and gooey, with heavenly cranberry and orange infused throughout. Being sweetened only with agave nectar (and man, does Jeffery ever choose his ingredients with absolute food snobbery! The best of the best! This agave was clear and pure and rich) it was too sweet for some refined raw foodist palates... but no sweeter than any fudge or white chocolate you might have out on the table at Christmas... just purer, and silkier... talk about melting in your mouth...
Anyway, the point is not that the fudge was awesome. (Though it clearly was.) It is that raw food is fascinating. Btw, I don't remember the quantities anymore, or the solution we had come up with for making a future batch into solid bars of chocolate, but the ingredients for my fudge were cocoa butter, agave syrup, cashews, almonds, dried cranberries and orange rind. Simple and beautiful, like all raw food! The idea with raw food is to retain all the energy and life in the food we eat by keeping all the wonderful little enzymes in tact. In order to do this, the food is not cooked, or heated beyond 116 degrees F. Food preparation, then, involves special tools and methods. We melted the cocoa butter painfully slowly in double boiler fashion (only the cocoa butter sat over a bowl of warm water on the counter instead of boiling water on a stove). We made cashew paste by running it through a fancy juicer attachment. Jefferey told me about how raw food at its most pure is not even pureed in a normal blender as the style of its blades oxidizes the food too much, thus destroying more enzymes. Not that the home cook who wants to integrate more living foods into their diet needs to worry about all this. The whole idea here is simplicity. But it sure is nice to have a friend running a thriving raw snacks and sweets business, who goes to all the trouble of preserving all the goodness of every wonderful organic ingredient for you. For the record, my grandmother is hooked on the raw chocolate chip cookies, and I'm in love with the cherry fruit leather.
As I was telling Swamiji about how interesting it was to see how the Rawesome kitchen operated he replied that it is fascinating, and that all this wealth of knowledge about food was known in ancient times, was found in ayurveda, but it has been (almost) forgotten, and now is the time to bring it back!
I could not agree more.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
There is order in chaos. Intelligence within space. It may be difficult to see, but it's there and I can prove it: just spend one day in our ashram kitchen.
I had lofty hopes of taking lots of wonderful pictures on this visit, especially of our stunning gardens and orchard, to show how the gorgeous organic veggies are picked early in the morning and run down to the kitchen where they are made into beautiful dishes, served in the dining hall. But as usual, the kitchen swallowed me whole, and I was really only able to get a couple of pictures, and only of things that went on within its walls...
There, the miracle of feeding 600 people takes place 3 times a day. Sure, that's nothing compared with our Bangalore ashram, where, with joyful but military like precision, they feed tens of thousands, but for us, it still seems amazing. At first it was amazing that we could serve 200, and then we got a few more burners and a couple industrial sized pots and it was amazing that we managed to do 300 and 400. And every time we get logistically caught up to the numbers of people we need to feed, every time we get a bigger kitchen, bigger pots, a better strategy, more people show up. And thank god... otherwise what would be the point? There'd be no thrill. There'd be no need for magic or miracles, which is what our ashram kitchen thrives on...
Walking into the kitchen in the morning, scrubbing hands, tying on an apron, is more about mental preparation than anything else. You focus, take a deep breath... and go! And suddenly there is a team of 30 or 40 people--volunteer veggie prepers--all wanting direction at once (though there are only 2 sinks for washing veggies, and only 20 cutting boards). And you cannot cook for the hour and a half that they are present, but only stand in the centre of all of them and their urgent questions about peelers, and keep mentally repeating all the ingredients needed for the meal, eyes darting from fridge to sinks to chopping tables, thinking, "Is that everything? Once potatoes are done there they'll have to switch to squash... have the herbs come in from the garden yet? We won't be able to prep twenty bunches of thyme ourselves--the volunteers have to get it done... where on earth is it?" all the time reminding the choppers who have no cooking experience to keep things uniform in size. Even those who know about cooking are overwhelmed by the quantity--who isn't? The quantity detaches one from reality, makes food seem less like food and more like a dream, and when you put your hand in a bowl of chopped carrots and show them that some are the size of dimes and some of golf balls, you are greeted with looks of puzzlement. Then, in an instant they are gone. There is silence in the kitchen... and not a single empty surface--just bowls of all sizes, and pots from when they ran out of bowls, full of chopped vegetables. A sea of giant bowls and pots of vegetables. Everywhere. There is a moment of peace and then a shiver of panic as you look at the clock, quickly turn on flames beneath vessels larger than bathtubs, and begin! Adding herbs and spices and salt by the handful. Handful after handful. And as you spin around, checking on each simmering bathtub of food, and have lettuce sticking up and down both arms from tossing salad, you hear hundreds and hundreds of footsteps above you, filing into the dinning hall, and volunteers burst in the door yelling "What goes up?!" Then you are handing them bucket after bucket to fill with soup, and reciting the names of the 4 dishes that you've made to anyone who will listen, over and over, so that no serving station will be missing a dish. You are searching everywhere for one more serving spoon, two more ladles. And then the dinner cooks come in, scrub their hands, tie on their aprons, take a deep breath, and begin... and you, though you feel you are still in the middle of a whirlwind, realize that it is over. Still in your apron you slip out the door, and only realize what has just happened when you walk upstairs into the dinning room and see all those people happily, leisurely, enjoying lunch. And you wonder where on earth all that food came from. It is as if it manifested right out of thin air.
My favorite thing of all that happens in the kitchen is making bread. One thousand chapatis.
There is nothing in the world as soothing as standing around a table with a dozen other women rolling out bread.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
We are always asking my grandmother for her recipes. And she always says, "Oh, that's just from the Mennonite Community Cookbook." (This is a giant old tome that is owned by all of us and, I think it is safe to say, all the other Mennonite women in South Eastern Ontario as well). Our next question is always, "Well then why doesn't mine come out anything like yours?!"
One day I gave up. I wanted to be able to make my favorite snack, molasses cookies, just like she did, and following the directions in the MCC cookbook was just not cutting it. So I made them in her kitchen, from the recipe in the book, and had her watch my every move. For the first few minutes she insisted that it was a useless exercise and I had the recipe right there! But then it started, "Oh, don't put in so much flour! They'll be too tough." And then, "Never put as much baking soda as they say - half is enough." Okay. "Add a little more cinnamon, your grandfather liked that. Oh, but I don't add the ginger - I don't like ginger so much." And finally, "Put the oven a little hotter than they say, and bake them for less time so they'll be chewier."
That was the day I realized the necessity of cooking together as much as possible. Of course, this used to be common place. This was the way recipes stayed alive--learn them from your grandmother and teach them to your grandchildren. It is harder these days though, and takes a little special effort, especially if you live far away from eachother, as is the case in my family. After the cookie experience in my teens, I put in the effort, taking a special trip to Grandma's house in the late summer to help her with canning, preserving, and jam making. And although my nieces live quite a long ways away from me as well, on my recent visit with my sister, I made sure to spend a day in the kitchen with them. The best conversations take place there, and the funnest experiments. My youngest niece and I devised a fun experiment to understand how yeast works. She also took these pictures of her older sister and I on our pizza and s'more day...
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Recipes created spontaneously, and dishes cooked for people we love always come out the best... this soup was born out of both! It has a wonderful texture, beautiful, rich colours, and has become one of my favorites.
4 C water
1/3 C red lentils
2 C chopped kale
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 C frozen green peas
1 T olive oil
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t black pepper
1 medium tomato, diced
3/4 t salt
juice of half a lemon
garnish with paprika
Rinse lentils, add to the 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until they are almost tender (about 10 mins). Add kale and cook 5-10 more mins. In the meantime, boil water in a second pot and cook potatoes until tender, adding the green peas for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Strain and set aside. Remove the lentils and kale from heat and puree. Return to heat and let simmer. Add in the cooked potatoes and peas. In the now empty potato pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add spices and tomatoes and saute for 2-3 mins. Add this spice mixture, salt, and lemon juice to the soup. Garnish with paprika. Serves 2-4.