Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Mouse is not a Moose

One of the only complaints I have with vegan foods is when they call things cheese, its well, not. As an omni, I am intimately acquainted with the “real” flavors of cheese, pepperoni, and cake. I am delighted by the textures, flavors, and consistencies of non-vegan foods. But I am equally delighted by new recipes, inviting me to experience a new part of my culinary world – so long as you don’t call a mouse a moose.

Take for instance vegan macaroni and cheese: really? Vegan? When you hand me a plate of your animal free epicurean experiments and call it cheese, I will eat it and hate it. If however the word cheese has been exiled and it is called something non-dairy soundingish, I will eat it and give it a fair shake. Why? Because I will not be expecting the rich, creamy, slightly sharp taste of cheddar that won’t be there.

So Vegans, know when I try your mac & “cheese” recipes, I will re dub them yellow pasta, or baked pasta, or Reginald, anything else really. Boring and lame, but there is a much better chance at success, and if it fails, it will not be because of unrealized expectations due to a misnomer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Soup mix

Today I will take you on an adventure!!! And adventure in soup. Oh yes, soup. I love soup. Love, love, love. Soup is glorious to behold, to smell, and to taste. It is warm, hot, cold, sour, sweet, savory, spicy, chunky, or smooth. The textures are wide and varied, sometimes in the same bowl; flavors are uniform or complex, robust, or playful, delicate, or forceful. It can be a comfort, to warm the soul with a hearty winter vegetable soup, or cool and refresh the palate with a chilled summer fruit soup. To put it simply, the shades and tones of soup, and the making thereof, are a representation of life.

And as is true with life, the whole of soup, its nature, history, and the nuances of connection cannot be fully realized in one lifetime, let alone one blog post. So we will explore one soup, and my connection, my journey, with this particular soup.

This voyage will take you two places simultaneously. The first place is to the world the cook book wants you to go, where the recipe is leading. The second place is wild and unfocused as I traverse the list of instructions and ingredients, and try to follow the recipe to a delicious meal (please oh please make it delicious, or at least palatable, please, I have guests coming and there aren’t enough cookies for everyone to eat for dinner if the soup doesn’t work), exposing my tenuous relationship with recipes and offering insight into the inner workings of Kitchen Rachel. My words will be italicized, and those in plain text will be the words of “Ribollita”. The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soup. Ed. Debra Mayhew. New York: Barns & Nobel Books, 2003. 125.

Let the adventure begin and thank you Barnes & Nobel for not suing me for reprinting your recipe without your permission.

Ribollita (pronounced rib ryb um Not-Minestrone)
Ribollita is like minestrone, but includes beans instead of pasta. In Italy, this is traditionally served ladled over bread and a rich green vegetable, although you can omit this for a lighter version. (Or out of fear and laziness)
Serves 6-8 (really, cuz I don’t believe you)

3 Tablespoons olive oil (sure, that looks about right)
2 onions, chopped (tears of joy)
2 carrots, sliced (I will use all five carrots I have in my fridge, *crunch, chomp, crunch, crunch, yum* I will use these 4 carrots I have left)
4 garlic cloves, crushed (right, good thing I have a garlic press to do this. Wait! I will use some crushed garlic from this jar here in my fridge.)
2 celery stalks, finely sliced (yes, 4 celery stalks, finely sliced)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped (check)
2 large zucchini, finely sliced (I will buy 3 and eat one…I will use all 3 zucchini in the soup, minus the slices that accidentally fell into my mouth) 14-oz can crushed tomatoes (GAH! They only have 28-oz cans of the crushed tomato, every other kid of canned tomato known to man in the smaller can, but not crushed! Stupid local grocery store conveniently located next to my apartment complex, hence the reason I will continue patronizing your store. Now I will double the recipe, but I will neglect to go back to produce because I can only think I want to go home and have dinner.)
2 Tablespoons pesto, either homemade or store bought (or 3 heaping Tablespoons of purchased homemade style pesto. Hurray for Trader Joe’s! Why aren’t you the store next to my complex?)
3 ¾ cup vegetable stock (how about 2 four-cup boxes of vegetable broth, which I am told is different than stock, and all I have, because that’s what Trader Joe’s sells)
14-oz can haricot or borlotti beans drained (Ummm. Not found at next door grocery store (is anyone really surprised?), nor my beloved TJ’s (what?!)…Ummm, I know! For a different soup I use canella beans, I will use two 14-oz cans of canella beans!! )
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (*an hour after soup has been consumed* Oops.)

To Serve: (or not to serve, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…what? You know you thought it too.)
1 pound young spinach (I don’t wanna)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling (mmm Old Town olive oil tasting)
6 to 8 slices white bread (or have a friend bring wheat French bread and let folks have it on the side with butter. Mmm wheat French bread and butter ghghghhhgghghhghghg)
Parmesan cheese shavings, optional (Recommend, especially if *ahem* someone forgets the salt, or um wants individuals to salt according to taste…uh yes, that’s it, according to taste.)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan add the onions, carrots, garlic, celery, and fennel and fry slowly for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini slices and fry for 2 minutes longer

1. Heat oil in 12 quart stalk pot on too high heat, add onions, carrots, celery, fennel and garlic cut the night before. Stir like crazy and turn the heat down. Laugh and question that whole “slow frying” thing because the vegetables are a couple of inches deep in the pot. Stir occasionally anyway for like um ok it’s probably been 10 or 15 minutes, sure. I hope these onions weren’t supposed to change color, you know, “frying” in the liquid from the veg. Add zucchini and stir. I guess for 2 minutes-ish.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, pesto, stock, and beans and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

2. Add the pesto, stock, tomatoes, beans, cover and bring to a boil. Now bite nails because guests are late, which is awesome, but the food will be later, which is not awesome. Read simmering part of directions, look at clock, turn down to medium and hope it doesn’t simmer too long before it goes back up to an unattended boil. Completely miss salt and pepper thing. Seriously, that wasn’t there before. When carrots are done-ish, serve the soup.

3. To serve fry the spinach in the oil for 2 minutes, or until it wilts. Spoon over the bread in the bowls and ladle to soup over the spinach. Serve with extra olive oil for drizzling onto the soup and Parmesan cheese to sprinkle of top, if liked.

3. Put bread and butter on the table, along with Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Enjoy soup, friends, and conversation.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Meaning in Freedom

Originally this next post was going to be about shopping bags (stay tuned), but my outlet for procrastination has, itself, become something to procrastinate. :) Rather, today I wanted to share something a little more personal and a little bit more serious than normal, something I rarely do, and never in a public forum. Some folks may not know (because I don't share) my brother and cousin are both over seas in the service, serving in the Army and Marines respectively. Their names have been in temples, and on our lips as we pray countless times. When my 4 year old nephew helps me pray (one word at a time), he always remembers Uncle Kevin. I know my family experience is not unique, nor could it ever be par for course. It does however, bring a different meaning for me on this day. The sacrifice and bravery of our service men and women was always abstract, distant thought that I could intellectualize but could never connect with. Today, my freedom is connected to lives, with people, with family. I hope I can keep this testimony, if you will, of the cost of today's picnic, tomorrows worship service, my outrage in politics, my choices in life. I want to grow this new understanding, now in its infancy, of what the 4th means, the original meaning of our holidays honoring our veterans, and the fallen, who gave the last full measure of devotion for each of us. But most of my hope is for my brother and cousin. Happy independence day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Some Entities Call Me Friend

My plan for the evening: go through the mail I have not opened IN FOUR MONTHS (Hurray for online bill pay, where you only have to click and send without looking at your stupidity!), figure out what is coming in and what is going out, and include those bills when, in a moment of ecological concern, I foolishly clicked paperless billing. Idiot! Hopefully I will not fail. But know because you are reading this blog, I have failed, and failed miserably. On the up side, my distraction was illusionarily productive (read: time consuming).

So this is only half the mountain; (that's puffs facial tissue in the background for anyone wondering) I didn’t have the brilliant idea to take pictures until half way through shredding. I would have taken picture of me too, but drowning in a mountain of mail and debt is somehow easier in your underwear. Too much information? (Clearly my efforts to become a more responsible adult are thwarted by my personality at every turn.) In this pile are multiple bills for the same thing. I have shredded the same bill 4 times, keeping the most recently due, because seriously people, I have not opened my mail for FOUR MONTHS!

And because I keep loosing my white letter opener on my white mail, and white pencil box, and white paper, and next to or near anything with a hint of white, I ask for and receive help. Thank you oh great sharpie for making things unseen now seen. And slightly snarky.

To the junk mail!

Jonathan H Price!! You donate to one, ONE, stupid public radio station and suddenly you are on the national registry to be hit up to donate to everything. Incidentally nature preserve in Arizona people, my name is not Friend. You can print my name on the guilt-tainted-address labels you think I will send you money for (Ha! I will shred them, because if I don’t use them I don’t owe you for anything!), but not on your “we’re so poor, please give us money for our birds” letter, telling me how the migration of a half-the-size-of-a-dollar humming bird across the world twice, backwards, in the snow, up hill both ways, amazes you?! On the other hand the humming bird labels are nice. You did say they were free, and I think I have a can of guilt repellent around here someplace, though probably expired like my allergy medicine. Curse you guilt repellent resistant address labels! I have so much mail too. *Sob* I will set aside the address labels and let the do-not-waste part of my weirdly wired brain pit against the guilt-for-labels-they-totally-want-me-to-donate-for part of my rainbay. (An epic and necessary battle since I shredded the donation everything.)

Judy Blume? THE Judy Blume has sent me mail?! :D No. :< Not THE Judy Blume. Holy BANANAS! It is THE Judy Blume! And she also thinks my name is Friend. Curses! Ooo look in the bottom right hand corner of the letter, it says "over please", and wouldn’t you know, there are words and sentences and stuff on the back of this piece of paper. I wonder if that is how I get to the rest of Fudge’s crazy antics with those booky thingies too.

Oh the Smithsonian sent stickers and address labels to Friend with my name and address. Now I can send get well wishes to my credit card company when I send the bill, and happy birthday on the envelope of my love note to my wireless carrier; well, you know, if I didn’t pay EVERYTHING online. There is always the dentist.

Good news, I don’t have to save complimentary tickets to the “give us your money” episode of The Commonwealth Club of California I normally forget about, because the tease tickets were for 7 weeks ago. Did I mention me no open mail, four months? Oh and the Commonwealth Club – they also think my name is Friend. Really people, you put my ACTUAL name on the envelope!

This one is new. Walk MS of Northern California thinks my first name is Walker. I must have a brother somewhere called Texas Ranger, and no, I am not a sissy.

KQED knows my name! No, that is not enough to send them money I don’t have. But I will enter the raffle I waste at least 3 stamps on every year for the past 4 years. My wants are usually humble, the first year it was the grand prize or the binoculars (yes the binoculars, which are uber cool by the way). This year I want the grand prize. Let’s face it, I can stop wallowing in underwear clad self pity and also get binoculars. Though I think I may be over the binoculars; now for distance seeing I want things like contacts and prescription sunglasses, because my eyes don’t like contacts every day (read: too lazy to put in contacts because glasses are faster).

And thus we come to the end of the junk mail. Left only with bills and memories. Ah good times, good times.

So today I have run the gambit of names assigned to me by junk mail. No imagination. Made a pile of pay me nows, and have started a blog, and only one of these is half a goal. I have yet to decide if shred the guilt or save the waste wins out on the address labels. All in all a pretty good night of avoidance, I achieved half a goal and made a blog. Which totally negates the fact that I failed at my goal and now have a blog. A blog, really? Huh. That sounds almost like a responsibility.