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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

all beans are not created equal

As a child, i hated beans. They were dry, tasteless and well, like most of the manufactured food of the time, pretty damn useless in terms of nutrition or any kind of culinary value. When i decided to become vegetarian at age 17, i learned that i needed to develop some taste for beans thus had to start learning how to prepare them. But still, the beans were awful. Old, dusty, dry things that i now realize were poor varieties, badly grown and probably years old.  And i remember people telling me, "if you do not put meat in your beans, it wont have any flavor". Yeah, ok, whatever, to that response as i already figured out that fresh herbs, spices and vegetables, along with oils and acids and salts produced very flavorful beans. However, i was not aware of the lack of quality of the beans themselves were.

Nowadays, things are different. Rancho Gordo Farms,, supplies chefs in the bay area with the highest quality, heirloom varieties of beans, available. Gone is the dust and the dryness and in comes the freshly dried, gourgeous vivid colored beans, booming with flavor and all kinds of delightful textures. Yes, they are more expensive than what you find in bulk bins in local places like Rainbow and Berkeley bowl and hte few other remaining places in the US where you can still get actual, REAL food, and also in horrible places like Whole Foods. Unfortunately, things are set up in ways that make no practical sense whatsoever. So in order to have our food grown without toxic pesticides and dangerous fertilizers, and in order to have our farmers paid and treated well and in order for those distributing the food to also be paid well, we have to pay absurd amounts for it. With Mr Hope and Change Presidente installing yet another Monsanto dude in charge of food and health safety, we know this situation will only get worse in the coming years.  It is a serious problem as these high prices for real food, make it an elite product that few can consume. Thus people are forced to eat low quality, factory farmed food (highly subsidized to keep the prices absurdly low) in order to be able to pay other bills.  Not everyone can prioritize food as an important expense.

How is this solved? Beyond a massive upheavel based on simple common sense and demanding leadership that supports small businesses instead of corporattions, there is no chance of this situation changing. Unless suddenly people realize that they must vote every time they spend money. Every time we purchase food, we vote. When we buy that cheap bag of crappy beans at safeway, we vote that says, "give me this shit, i am someone that accepts mediocrity and craves it and yearns for more of it, bring it on and forcefeed it down my throat some more. i loe your miller light, your pepsi, your disney films, your illusion of change... and i deserve nothing more as i simply do as i am told and stopped thinking on my own shortly after my public education began". Or we can support our local farms, our suppliers of heirloom dried goods, our local makers of artisan foods and vote each time that says, "thank you for keeping some sense of old world artistry and craftsmanship alive. We need this if we want any kind of respectable future for humanity, my tasted buds and my spirit deserve quality".

ok, i have not ranted on this blog in a while and somehow my support and admiration for this amazing bean company led to this. How can you eat or talk about food and not give though to the importance of those who grow our food and the extreme importance of how our food got from that farm to our kitchens.

Check out the various varieties of beans from Rancho Gordo! Your tastebuds will really appreciate the extra expense way more than you can imagine!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

many new classes added to the schedule

6 cooking classes, now on the schedule for the winter and spring with many more to be added, soon.
Sunday, February 28, chocolate class, 5 pm
Sunday, March 7, noodle shop class, 5 pm
Thursday, March 25, passover class, 6:30 pom
Sunday March 28, tempeh class 7 pm
Saturday, April 3 mushroom class, noon
Saturday, May 22, sichuan class, noon

all classes are hands on with all students preparing and consuming each dish.  Space is limited to 8 and cost is only, $40. please contact me for reservations or if you have questions

stir fried, flat tofu noodle

Flat tofu noodle (see note)

1 pound flat tofu, cut into noodles, boiled for 2 minutes, drained.

in a wok or large frying pan, heat up:
3 tbsp coconut oil

1 leek, julienned
6 cloves garlic, minced

and cook for 2 minutes

:1 pound sprouts
1 carrot, julienned
1 bunch gai lan

and cook for 2 more minutes

3 tbsp chinese fermened tofu
2 tbsp red miso
4 tbsp shoyu
2 tbsp palm sugar
1/2 cup stock

add to the vegetables, stir fry for 30 seconds, add the flat tofu noodles and serve

Note: Flat tofu is a rare Chinese variety of tofu. Fortunately, in the bay area, Tofu Yu, ( prepares this daily in their tofu shop in Berkeley, along with many other fine styles of tofu. You can find this flat tofu from Tofu Yu at many farmers markets in the bay area. Check them out

massamun curry

Massamun Curry

serves 9
mix the following in a wok or cast iron pot:
2/3 cup curry paste
6 cups coconut milk
2 cups stock
1/2 cup shoyu
1/3 cup tamarind concentrate
1/3 cup palm sugar
bring to simmer
then add:
1 pineapple, diced
2 carrots, rough cut
1 kabocha, small, rough cut
1 pound potatoes, small pieces
1 lotus root, sliced thinly
i cauliflower cut in small florets
2 onions, half moons
1 cup toasted peanuts

cook till vegetables are tender. Do not cover or coconut milk will curdle
then add
1 pound fried tempeh strips
for the last few minutes of cooking.
serve hot over rice

cilantro to garnish

Thai-Japanese mushroom soup

Thai Mushroom Soup

for 9
9 cups vegetable stock, hot
4 cups of assorted mushrooms: shitake, maitake, shimeji, enoki, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
10 thai green chilis, chopped
1 onion, half moons
1 pound tofu, drained, pressed and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
10 kafir lime leaves
3 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup shoyu
2 tbsp shaoshing
1/3 cup mirin
1 tbsp chili oil

4 green onions, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup thai or opal basil, chiffonade

in a soup pot, heat up coconut oil and fry up onions, garlic, ginger and chilis for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 4 minutes. Add shaoshing and let cook off and then add lime juice, shoyu and chili oil. Bring to simmer, add tofu, return to simmer, add hot stock. Adjust flavors and serve immediately.

massamun curry paste

Massamun Curry Paste

10 dried new mexico or guajillo peppers, soaked
3 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp green peppercorns
1 tsp red peppercorns
7 cloves
seeds of cardamom pod
1 large cinnamon stick
one small nutmeg
3 stalks lemongrass
2 large shallots
2 tbsp cilantro stems
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp  ginger
10 kaffir lime leaves
20- or more fresh thai chilis
1 tbsp chinese fermented bean curd
1.5 tsp salt

Pan roast the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg for about 10 minutes or till very aromatic. Be very careful not to burn or you have to start all over.

Now there are 2 options:

easy, moderne, arm saving method. Toss everything in a food processor, hit the button, cover tightly and/or get out the gas mask. Add some water if needed, to form a paste.

Tradition: Get out the mortar and pestle and start grinding, one ingredient at a time. Add the next one, only after the previous ones are well formed. Be careful with your hands, nostrils and lungs when incorporating the chilis

Friday, February 19, 2010

tamarind fried tempeh

Fried Tempeh with tamarind flavor
1 pound tempeh cut into strips

1/3 cup tamarind concentrate
3 tbsp shoyu
2 tbsp mirin
1.5 tsp sea salt
1.5 tsp black pepper
2 shallots, pounded
15-30 cloves garlic, pounded
combine all marinade ingredients and let tempeh soak for at least 15 minutes.
Fry tempeh and serve it hot

Friday, February 5, 2010

pasta with creamy cashew sauce

Some would call this "vegan macaroni and cheese" but the word vegan will turn most people off immediately, thus the more descriptive title is being employed here.

1 pound dried small spiral pasta
par boil the pasta till it is 60% cooked, drain well. Do this at the very end, just before you put the pasta in the oven. General rule is never let pasta wait for its sauce or its dish to continue.

in a blender, place 1 cup raw cashews and 2 cups cold water. Blend till very smooth, set aside. You have to use raw cashews for this and for all my cashew cream recipes! Roasted or salted will effect your dish in a very bad way.

heat up a frying pan and chop the following:
1 leek
1 onion
6 cloves garlic
1 carrot
handful of parsley

if it were summer, i would add some fresh peas and chopped peppers but i am typing this in February so those are way out of season.

Add the onions and leeks to 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 and 1/2 tsp sea salt in the pan and cook over medium-low heat, covered for 10 minutes. add rest of vegetables, cover and cook 3 more minutes.
2 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp yellow mustard powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 cup dry white wine to the hot pan, deglazing it in the process, cover and let cook for 2 minutes.

in a large bowl mix together the cooked vegetables, the blended cashew cream and the cooked pasta. Add 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper and 1 cup water.
Place in a baking tray, cover and bake at 350 for half hour.