28 September 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Crumb

Cool weather is my go-to excuse to fill the house with the luscious aroma of baking bread. Making no-knead olive bread was a good decision. A little patience and almost no fuss really can yield fantastic results. Just look at the crumb.
What do you like to cook when it's cold outside?

24 September 2011

Noodles and a Chickpea

When it comes to brothy noodle dishes, I tend to prefer them steaming-hot. One of my favorite dishes from childhood, tempura udon, is just that--soupy and brimming with hot dashi, battered-and-fried veggies, and thick, chewy strands of wheat noodles. During my university years, I discovered vegetarian pho and developed an affinity toward it as well. A huge bowl of rice noodles, fried tofu, and hot, spiced, citrus-tinged broth was the perfect antidote for having to spend a chilly day on campus.

Fast-forward to about a year ago. While browsing a Korean market near my sister's house, I spotted a small display of bright green packages labeled "Sea Tangle Noodles." Those packages housed crunchy, tangled bundles of kelp-based strands that look like rice vermicelli, but unlike rice noodles, can be eaten raw. My first taste of this unique item was in something akin to a cold noodle salad, dressed lightly in a simple peanut sauce. Despite initial hesitation about eating raw noodles, I liked them and was content to enjoy them, repeatedly, as a type of cold or room temperature, crisp side dish.

It wasn't until reading this post that I even really considered eating kelp noodles in a soup. It wasn't just any soup, either. It was a raw soup. I knew that cold soups are not exactly novel--gazpacho, anyone?--but never actually tasted one. And this particular post was about vegetarian pho from Ani's Raw Food Asia. Yes, pho--something I only knew of as being hot and cooked, not crunchy and raw. The idea of truly enjoying raw pho was a bit challenging to comprehend, but certainly intrigued me.

So I tried it. And I liked it. It's actually quite satisfying. The savory broth hits those comfort notes without scorching one's mouth with molten liquid. The crispness of the vegetables is refreshing. The kelp noodles that look so much like rice vermicelli actually mimic the texture of them, softening when steeped in the broth for a few minutes. I doubt Ani's version of pho will ever top my preference for the hot stuff, but if anyone knew how many times I've eaten raw pho during the last week (hint: several), it would be clear to them that I've quite taken to this creative take on a traditional noodle dish.
***
In other vegan news, the inaugural issue of Chickpea magazine is online for your viewing pleasure. What is Chickpea, you ask? It's a new and absolutely lovely vegan quarterly from the creators of hipsterfood, covering all things vegan. I'm honored to have my article, "Veganizing Island Fare," as well as accompanying recipe for Pancit Canton (more noodles!), included among so many fabulous contributions. Click here to find out more about the magazine, and don't forget to read the Fall 2011 issue.

19 September 2011

Monochrome

Whenever September arrives, my eagerness for autumn to arrive swells up yet again. I tire of silently (and sometimes vocally) cursing the summer heat. I crave dark, chilly mornings. I relish cool, coat-weather breezes. I await having excuses to wear hats and scarves each day. Oddly enough, my aversion to heat is accompanied by being prone to feeling cold--a contradiction to my "island blood," as my Hawaii-born-and-raised mother once claimed. But frozen fingertips and all, I'd rather try to prevent myself from shivering than languish helplessly under sweltering heat.

And the autumnal colors--oh, those luscious hues. The rich browns, oranges, and reds are irresistibly inviting. They're some of the simple joys I discovered during my university years. I miss being able to surround myself in that type of natural beauty since moving back to the central coast; visible seasonal changes are not nearly as obvious here as they are in northern California. Autumn prefers to sneak in around here, bathing the scenery in subtler, more muted tones.

Before autumn truly arrives, perhaps it's best to appreciate what is left of summer. There are, in fact, some aspects to this season that I do enjoy--primarily of the edible persuasion, of course. Summer produce is gloriously colorful and flavorful. I've definitely taken advantage of the variety, delighting in heaps of fresh fruit, leafy greens, and every veggie in-between. I could attempt to wax lyrically about the endless rainbow that is a summer farmers' market, but would much rather present a humble ode to the vibrant yet typically monochromatic nature of my plate in recent weeks. Autumn may not set this sleepy town aglow in gold, but it would be a shame not to pay tribute to the brilliant green that keeps me healthy and happy, not only during summer, but year-round.

The herb and pepper plants in the backyard have gone to seed, but they're still as green as ever. As the summer garden continues to wither, the persimmon tree shows signs of life. Young, firm fruit hang from the overgrown branches. Peachy flecks remind onlookers that autumn is indeed on its way, but for the most part, the tree is a huge, lovely tower of green. Soon enough, those treasured Fuyu will announce their presence in bold orange. The display will undoubtedly be short-lived, because I'll be ready to pluck the fruit the minute they mature. In the meantime, my snacks and meals have been perfectly green.
Apple season happens to be synonymous with autumn, and it just so happens that I adore Granny Smith apples. Dusted with cinnamon or left plain, the freshly-cut fruit is a typical, satisfying snack.
One of my favorite ways to eat cucumber is to prepare it as a Japanese-style salad. Wooed by basic, novel-to-me gadgetry, I used a decades-old, nearly-forgotten saladacco spiral slicer to turn an English cucumber into long, curly ribbons for kiyuri namasu. I also spiralized a yellow summer squash, too, for good measure...and just because I could.
A murky, soupy concoction isn't the most appetizing dish to hit the table, but this bowl of "cheesy" squash shirataki noodles (a spinach-loaded adaptation of this recipe) was packed with wonderfully warm, savory, leafy green goodness. I put spinach in nearly everything I eat, so it's no surprise that even "cheesy" pasta would end up green.
Speaking of veggies that are easy to consume in copious amounts, baby bok choy has become something of a recent obsession. Rather than stir-frying it, I prefer to steam it and dress it in simple sauces. This batch has a light drizzle of shiso-infused shoyu and sriracha. Lemon-miso sauce is another delectable option.
What are you eating these days? What (if anything) do you most anticipate during the transition from summer to autumn?

16 September 2011

Halfway there

For those of you who happen to follow along with my food-and-then-some ramblings on Twitter, you may have heard me recently mention something about planning to make yet another care package for another friend. With "buttercream" on the brain, I sought the opinions of the Twitterverse, inquiring whether I should make whoopie pies or oatmeal creme pies; crowd-sourcing through social media is a neat little phenomenon, after all. Despite a dead heat in the poll (a humble but much-appreciated grand total of two responses), I decided upon attempting a homemade, vegan version of oatmeal creme pies, simply because I never tried to make them and liked the idea of using oats, for reasons unknown. Basic vegan vanilla buttercream procured from somewhere on the internet and adaptation of a Vegan with a Vengeance oatmeal cookie recipe made up the pies. I even went so far as to also make amaretti that sounded simply too good to resist. I had made some delightful sponge toffee--the chemical reaction at play is pure fun--prior to all of that. The avoidance of added sugar seemed like a long-lost memory at that point.
And after the brainstorming and baking and testing my willpower with a mountain of sweet decadence, I didn't even mail the care package. It wasn't because I couldn't, I just...didn't. With box, gift, and packing material at the ready, I abandoned my scheme at the last moment. Miscommunication and a scheduling mix-up contributed to the result, but what it ultimately boils down to was my failure to follow through. I'm realizing now that I've not been my focused, more motivated self lately; it's too visible to ignore, and I don't like it. Fortunately, the care package scheme wasn't exactly a priority. I suspect the no-pressure nature of the plan only encouraged my eventual failure to complete the task. Because it was meant to be a surprise, belated-birthday-and-welcome-home gift for a friend, I never warned her of its arrival. She never expected anything and I may end up seeing her next week, anyway, so besides letting myself down with my utter lack of execution, no harm done. Humorously enough, I snapped photos of the goods prior to the packing-that-wasn't; now that they are long-gone (gifted to my in-town family instead), those confections will be forever immortalized in their pre-mailing state through these images, suggesting a destination that will never exist for them.
And so it goes.

***
To end on a positive note, Vegan MoFo is about to hit the blogosphere once again! It's returning as an October affair this year, which means the fun is mere weeks away. I'm participating for my third-straight year and even have a theme planned. The renewed challenged of blogging daily with the added element of staying with a theme will be a refreshing change of pace that I could not only use, but also crave at the moment. After a few days of brainstorming, I've decided to focus my MoFo blog posts on "meals of the day" (the official theme name, if there is one, will sound less awkward); each day will be dedicated to a particular type of meal (i.e., breakfast, dessert, snack, etc.) and will feature a dish (although not necessarily an original recipe) that corresponds with that particular day's meal.

The week will look something like this:
Saturday: wildcard meal, leftover revival, or full day of meals
Sunday: brunch
Monday: breakfast
Tuesday: snacks
Wednesday: lunch
Thursday: dinner
Friday: dessert

The arrangement may change, but I'm fairly certain that the theme itself won't change; you'll know if it does, of course. Are you participating in Vegan MoFo 2011? What will be your theme (if any)?

14 September 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Waffles

Fancy a bit of brioche? The oh-so-versatile dough can be made whatever your bread-loving heart desires, including amazing waffles. Head over to have cake, will travel for Celine's recipe for vegan brioche, make a batch, and bask in the pure, yeasted bliss.

07 September 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Bites

I think some part of me is recovering from the mental toll of the last month or so; along with more-than-usual physical travel, my mind has taken to meandering (as well as fixating, then wandering again). I'll spare you details for the time being, leaving you with a few snippets of nearly-forgotten, edible life.
Baked raised doughnuts (pre-healthier-eating attempts).
Sinangag, Filipino-style fried rice (also pre-cleanse).
Quinoa, mango salsa, black bean mini-bowl (one of my
healthier days).
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, for my niece's first
birthday (I had just a taste to make sure they were good to
serve).
I spent a few days backpacking last week, subsequently finding myself craving the fresh fruit and vegetables to which I momentarily lacked access. (Perhaps there will be more about that adventure in a future blog post.) What goodies are you eating these days?

Love Drop: September 2011 - Melanie

September has finally rolled around, which means several things: back-to-school shenanigans (not really applicable for me, but for many others); impending autumn (i.e., cooler weather, pumpkins, justification for wearing hats and scarves all the time, etc.); and, as is the case at the beginning of each month, a new Love Drop mission. I apologize for the delayed update. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to access the video introduction or get into the Love Drop website at all for the last few days, so I'll just pass along the information given to the Blogger Network about this month's mission, courtesy of Nate and J$:

This month we're rallying behind Melanie, a wonderful mother of four who recently got hit by a car while walking near her home outside of Boston. We are all so thankful she pulled through, but now the long road to recovery begins - and with that comes many unforeseen expenses.

Our mission is to help customize her home to her new physical limitations. The three things she could really use right now are a front-loading washer and dryer, as well as a new stove with front controls so she can continue providing for her family. She still remains extremely positive, but it's going to be a tough time for a while.

Let's surprise her with an AWESOME Love Drop this month!

You can head over to Love Drop to learn more and check out the intro video for Melanie and her family.
As always, thank you for reading and considering this worthy cause. Have a good day, all. Go forth and drop some love.
[via Love Drop]