Monday, August 23, 2010

Recipe: Edamame Hummus

I'm back in Chicago after my glorious and reflective Summer in New York. Its safe to say that the return is bittersweet...But, I've been greeted with lovely end of Summer weather, brand new blue line subway cars, and a bevy of friends that I have missed dearly...And, my beautiful, clean, uncluttered, ex-boyfriend free apartment and its giant kitchen is a freaking revelation after J's permanently dusty, tzotchke-stuffed Greenwich Village studio. Okay, maybe I'm a little bit happy to be here?! What I am not happy about is having to present my (not yet finished) thesis proposal tomorrow, and the fact that with that presentation Summer officially ends.

So, what's a girl to do when she has a ton of writing to bang out? Putter around in the kitchen of course! After visiting Moby's Tea café on the Lower East Side this Summer, I've become deeply obsessed with Edamame Hummus. I've made several versions trying out different accents, and finally landed on a good basic recipe that is totally fool proof and totally delicious. Its just salty enough, a little tangy from the lime and rich enough to occupy the starring role in a sandwich. I like it on rice crackers with pickled ginger and in nori wraps with sweet potato, bell peppers, and spinach. And, if you're needing a little pick me up, it comes out a really nuclear shade of cheery green!

Edamame Hummus
1/3 cup cilantro (this is basically 1/3 of a good sized bunch from the grocery store, leaves only)
1 clove garlic
1.5 cups thawed frozen, shelled, organic edamame (unsalted)
3 t tahini
2 t olive oil
2 t rice vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1+ T white miso
5- 6 T warm water

In a food processor or blender, whir the garlic and cilantro until they are well chopped. Add the thawed edamame and pulse on low. Then add the tahini, miso, olive oil, rice vinegar and lime juice. Blend for 4- 5 minutes, adding the warm water slowly until the hummus is smooth and fluffy. Taste. If you'd like it to be a bit saltier add a small amount more miso or a pinch of sea salt.

I have a backlog of tales about many last indulgent dinners alone in New York and a great trip to Asheville, NC. But they'll have to wait until this proposal is done!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The way it is isn't the way it has to be.

The New York Times and NPR have both been bumming me out lately. Not simply because being aware of what's going on in the world necessarily means being aware of a lot of nasty, terrible, and scary things, but because I've discovered a propensity toward certain biases in the opinion and news sections of both that I find disconcerting and frightening. 

With NPR it has been the recent realization that a lot of their food coverage is stunningly anti-veg and that their commenting base, which I would assume to be a relatively educated and socially aware group, is shockingly, often hatefully and violently anti-veg. I understand fully that going vegan or vegetarian isn't something that most or even many people will ever do.  Though, I do believe that I am not unreasonable to advocate for better farming practices and a re-evaluation of the sheer quantity of animal products the average American person consumes. I also understand that being vegan, vegetarian and a conscious consumer of food produced in a sustainable manner and grown close to home is tied up with a lot of class and race issues. (I blame our government and the ridiculous and illogical farm subsidies that favor factory farms over small farms for some of this...) It is a simple fact that just getting enough to eat is hard for a huge number of people in the U.S. and beyond. And, I think that if you're legitimately struggling to survive, its pretty obvious that when deciding what to eat where/how/and from what it was produced are not at the top of one's list of concerns. But, NPR just never seemed like it would be a place that would label me a freak because I'm vegan...Or a place that would defend consuming meat at the majority of one's meals as some sort of inalienable right.

With the New York Times, its been the coverage of the over-turn of Proposition 8  (Yay!) and the articles that they keep publishing on how special and amazing marriage (particularly hetero marriage) is. This one in particular really made me upset. I know that this is an opinion piece. And, I like opinion pieces. I like to see lots of opinions on major issues. I feel like by reading them all I'm getting something nearer the big picture than if I only read the opinion that I agree with or the "objective" front page story on the issue. However, Ross Douthat, is an ass who does not understand this country's constitution. And he is so painfully narrowminded in his thinking about what constitutes a significant relationship between human beings, that I wonder if he's ever left your gated Christian community. (I do not know that Douthat lives in a gated community, I doubt that he does, I'm just sayin'...) And he makes me upset because I know that a lot of people agree with him and have the same misunderstandings about the legally defined role of the state in U.S. law. A lot of people.

Here are just a few examples of the nonsense this wad decided to spew in the Grey Lady today:
Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.
But if we just accept this shift, we’re giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.
But based on Judge Walker’s logic — which suggests that any such distinction is bigoted and un-American — I don’t think a society that declares gay marriage to be a fundamental right will be capable of even entertaining this idea.

Here's the thing. My parents are married, many of my friends are married, lots of people want to get married. That's great. I support and respect that. I love that those people are able to have a public celebration and easily explained set of terms, that are legally protected (if they're hetero, but hopefully for all couples very soon!) to define their relationships. But marriage is not the only or most significant of relationships between people. I hate to ever cite Sex and The City, but you may remember the episode where Carrie's Manolo's get stolen at a baby shower and her friend refuses to replace them because shoes are frivolous and then Carrie registers at the Manolo store because she is tired of being treated like less-than because she's unwed and childless? Yeah, well as hetero-normative and grossly consumerist as the SATC story arc may be, this isn't exactly a bad point. Why is it that, as a society, we prize marriages (especially hetero marriages that make babies) above all other relationships? 

Enter Glenn Greenwald, my hero for the day. His f*cking brilliant response to Douthat on brought tears to my eyes. He's so logical, so informed, so moderate and rational. Recognizing that Douthat, like so many opponents to gay marriage (and so many who believe that marriage and parenting is the most special thing any person can ever be involved in) argues that Judge Walker's ruling is ridiculous because it is making a moral judgment, Greenwald penned one of the most incisive and well-written take downs that I've ever read. Because, in fact, Judge Walker's ruling does the opposite of what Douthat claims, it overturns a law that is unconstitutional because it restricts the access of homosexual couples who want to be recognized in the eyes of the state on the grounds that there exists a moral difference between a hetero and a homosexual partnership. Here's Greenwald's eloquent explanation:

Douthat is quite confused about what Judge Walker actually ruled.  He did not decree that there are no legitimate moral, theological or spiritual grounds for viewing heterosexual marriage as superior.  That's not what courts do.  Courts don't rule on moral, theological or spiritual questions.  Such matters are the exclusive province of religious institutions, philosophers, communities, parents and individuals' consciences, but not of the State.  That's the crux of this judicial decision. 
Hear that? "Courts don't rule on moral, theological, or spiritual questions." 
The court ruled opposite-sex-marriage-only laws unconstitutional not because it concluded that heterosexual and homosexual marriages are morally equal, but rather, because it's not the place of the State (or of courts) to make such moral determinations.
Thank you Glenn Greenwald for explaining, in such clear terms, the role of the state. You are a gem and a gift to our times.

But, as great as Greenwald's article is, I don't know that it digs far enough into Douthat's argument about marriage being some sort of ultimate ideal of our culture. Marriage, whether gay or straight, is not some super-special-magic-civilization potion. There are a lot of ways to imagine a family. A family is not always nuclear and there are a plenitude of care groups that function like families without fitting into the norm of two people who are married, own property together and may also raise children together. Those other families should be recognized with legal rights and social acceptance as well. Here is a great source for some well-written opinions on the matter.
As for me, I think that if you want to get married, you should be able to.  No matter who you are. If we're friends and you get married, I'll come and celebrate and sincerely send you well-wishes for a lifetime of happiness. I believe in love and commitment and partnership. But, love takes all kinds and all formulas and all arrangements and none of them are any more important or any more special than any other. And, I don't think your wedding is a more significant an event than my (or anyone's) thirtieth birthday, birth and/or death, college graduation...Or any number of other exciting and important life moments that we chose to mark with parties and presents. It is super important, but not the ultimate ideal of important life things. There isn't one. For every life there are many amazing moments and many amazing commitments.

So, lets just go for broke and let love in all its forms be publicly sanctioned and important.

Sartorial Wishing

I am a devoted clothes horse. In my apartment I have 2 large closets (stuffed), a covered close rack (filled to the gills), and two dressers (exploding at all times)...This is not to mention the rubbermaid bins under my bed and the many, many pairs of shoes. Here's the thing though. A lot of this stuff I've had for 8+ years and its ratty, doesn't fit right and needs to go. But, due to the lame conditions of being an educated (read: really in debt) woman in the arts (read: actually needs cocktail dresses for professional reasons) I get anxious about purging. What if I really need that tulle mini skirt because I get invited to a cabaret event?! Here's the thing though, my style is all about streamlined looks. I like cool patterns (current obsession: Ikat), neutrals (black, grey, hunter green, navy, white) and classics, architechtural details, vintage styled dresses, high waists, and tough jewelry. When I get back to Chicago in a couple weeks I'm planning a genuine clean out. No more hanging on to things I think are horrid just because. No, I will have a streamlined, simple wardrobe like I've always wanted. With my birthday approaching in just under two months and this planned purge, I am of course lusting after some new items. Behold what is sure to be the first of many Polyvore sets to grace this blog...My fall desires minus an Ikat scarf, because I've yet to find one that is vegan friendly.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Necessity is the mother of invention.

 I woke up so early this morning! It always feels good to wake up at 5:30, of one's own accord, and feel happy about it. What doesn't feel so good is waking up and remembering that you forgot to buy orange juice, so you have everything for your usual Stawberry/Mango/Banana/Flax breakfast smoothie but the liquid that makes the blending possible. So, you sigh. Your stomach grumbles a bit. You reflect on a weekend where you ate at Candle Cafe, Counter, and Caravan of Dreams and wonder if any weekend of impulsive eating out will ever be so satisfying again once your re-sequestered in the Midwest. And, then, at the crucial moment, you discover an unopened container of almond milk in the cabinet and inspiration strikes: Almond/Strawberry/Banana...And you wind up with the best goddamn breakfeast in a glass that you've had in a while. Really, it was as good as the Caravan of Dreams Almond butter shake that you split with your ex and his brother after another awkward dinner last night and that f*cker was made with ice "cream" from Stogo (The 2nd best vegan ice cream in New York!)! It seems silly to post a smoothie recipe, but I can't help it...It's guilty pleasure, milkshake and cookies for lunch delicious.

1 cup frozen organic strawberries
1 largish banana
2 T unsweetened and unsalted almond butter (I get the 365 brand from Whole Foods)
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t vanilla
1 t maple syrup
1+ cup unsweetened almond milk
*Not my picture.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gluttony + Revelry (Part 2)

After Friday night's magical and intense course of events, I woke up Saturday morning very early.  The sky was blue, and it was a good 20 degrees cooler than it's been in weeks. (This has been a very, very hot Summer in New York.) Emerging from the little alcove where I sleep, I spied J sprawled on the air mattress in the living room, snoring, sweating, and generally looking like something I'm happy to no longer share a bed with. (Wow, bitter much?!) I padded over to the kitchen nook, assembled a mango/strawberry/banana smoothie with flax seeds, and sat down to peruse the New York Times online. As usual, I read the headlines and wished that there wasn't a super-sleeper in the room so that I could switch to NPR and move around instead of sit at the computer! First world problems, let me tell you...

Not wanting to waste any of a glorious cool day inside, I headed out for the Union Square Greenmarket, a place where dreams come true and there are always puppies. I don't get to go to the Greenmarket as often as I'd like, but every time I go with my pre-set cash budget, I come home laden with multi-colored veggies, pungent herbs and a strong desire to just gorge myself on all the raw deliciousness. I have yet to really make a recipe from any of my Greenmarket purchases, just a lot of really intense salads!

Heaven in a bowl: mesclun and sunflower sprouts with fresh currants, purple carrots, heirloom cherry tomatoes, purple haze basil, and avocado topped with just lemon, a dash of smoked paprika, sea salt and pepper.

By the time I returned, J was (finally) up and gone. So, I settled in to work on my thesis proposal, wait to interview Jen Harmer (a dancer with Misnomer Dance Theater) for Nightjar, and prepare myself for another night of vegan gluttony at 4 Course Vegan. Before I get to the food, I'll just say that even writing the proposal for my MA thesis has tested my will to be intelligent and curious. But, as I'm moving past the Summer-induced laziness, I'm finding that writing everyday is much easier and less stressful than not writing and thinking about writing all day, every day. In fact, as of today I have a draft of my proposal done and I actually think that it will be a good paper if I can keep writing like I've been writing in the last week, with clarity, attention to detail, and a little careful planning.

Jen came by at 3 for her interview. She is a charming, smart, and warm lady and we had a great chat about bring choreography to the Nightjar photo shoot, what inspires us, and her passion for Bagua (A martial arts practice that is somewhere between Tai Chi and Gyrotonic Pilates). After she left, I spent a little more time with my new best friend Michel Foucault, before departing the house around 6:30 to walk through the East Village and over the Williamsburg Bridge to dinner. As I crossed the bridge, the sun was setting, and Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn were shining in all their golden glory. I looked in my tote for my camera, and realized that I'd left it at home. Instead of mourning the lost opportunity, I decided to soak up the beauty without being distracted by the lens and was instead distracted by the many pairs of Chasids walking hand in hand, in deep conversation over the bridge.  The walk from the apartment in Greenwich Village to the Williamsburg apartment of Chef Matteo took about an hour. When I arrived, my appetite was whet with fresh air and excercise and I was pleased to enter this gorgeous, minimal space to the warm greetings of the chef and his little dog Winston.

I had initially invited J to join me for dinner as a sort of peace offering, but he declined on account of "exhaustion." I was a bit nervous about attending the dinner sans escort, but it turned out to be the right choice. There are two communal tables, and mind was inhabited by a friendly group including a 55 year old Brooklyn-Italian native who went vegetarian at 45, runs an engineering firm and recently took up glass blowing; his guest a young au pair (also a Brooklyn native); two 2nd year law students from Harvard; and two sophisticated New York women, who mostly kept to themselves without coming off as rude or disinterested...They merely seemed to want to catch up with one another.

Now, on to the menu. It was a totally raw evening, which was exciting and pretty new for me. I don't think I've ever had an entire raw-gourmet meal before...But, it won't be the last time. I will say now, having had 12 courses at Radius, dinner at Chez Panisse, No. 9 Park, and the chef's tasting at Nobu in my pre-vegan days, this was one of the top-5 best meals I have ever had in terms of the food, the elegant and simple presentation, the impeccable service, and atmosphere. Do go: Dinner is $40 and BYOB. I promise that it will make your heart sing.

This raw feast had a subtle sunflower seed theme, they appeared in supporting roles in every dish and a lead role in the entrée. I had forgotten how sweet and smoky a sunflower seed could be, and they really tasted different in each course. I was particularly taken with the daikon radish ravioli, the chowder and the enchilada. The radish ravioli were perfectly balanced in with the tangy, spicy slaw. As an amuse boucheOaxacan cooking...I'm willing to call it a masterpiece. Dessert was a dense and beautiful chocolate tart that we all labored over in deep conversation about home made wine, fire escape gardens, and our favorite vegan ice creams. I left after a quick snuggle with Winston, and nearly four hours after I arrived, to a leisurely walk back to the apartment that I have only two and a half weeks in completely in love with an experience and this city that will (hopefully!) be my real home in just under a year.

The Menu
  • Spicy Asian slaw wrapped in a shiso leaf accompanied by daikon "radish" ravioli filled with nut cheese.
  •  Cool corn chowder with chipotle and chive sour crema
  •  Jicama radish salad with cherry tomatoes and lime dressing
  •  Spicy sunflower enchilada with avocado, pico de gallo, and ancho mole
  •  Mexican chocolate tart with meyer lemon and raspberry sauce

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gluttony + Revelry (Part 1)

New York is such a spectacular city. After growing up in Los Angeles, becoming an adult in Boston, and spending two years of graduate school in Chicago, New York remains my archetypal "place where anything is possible." New York seems to contain the entire world within is small circumference; I am often tempted to muse upon the idea that one could meet almost any type of person that could possibly exist in the whole world here. And, further, like to go on little adventures to try and find people I couldn't meet anywhere else. The last two and a half months of interning, working, researching and wandering in the city have done little to suppress my life long desire to really be a New Yorker. (Soon! When the thesis is done, apartment is packed, and my MA degrees are bestowed...In other words, in 10 short, busy months...)  This weekend I was able to indulge in dinner at Candle 79 and 4 Course Vegan, see a band play that inspires me, meet people I would never have met outside a communal table, and actually make some progress on my thesis proposal. While I failed to charge my camera and therefore have no photos worth sharing of either of my meals, I'd like to share my marvelous weekend with you anyway. (This will be a two-part entry due to my inability to tell a story in brief terms.)

It all began Wednesday evening. J (the infamous ex with whom I am currently co-habitating out of financial necessity) had just returned two days prior from nearly two months of travel. Tensions were high. Having learned in the time since we split that he is not the person I loved so deeply, that despite the fact that he spent two years telling me that he had never loved anyone as much as he loved me he now claims to never have loved me at all, that he is as complacent as all the "bougie normals" he rails against, and that he is (and this is most unforgivable) a liar who lies out of laziness and cowardice, I don't particularly enjoy having to spend time with him. So, needless to say, being in a tiny Manhattan apartment together is less than pleasant. Wednesday was particularly tense as J was engaged in that classic pissy roommate behavior: Loud, passive-aggressive cleaning. (Its crucial to note here that the apartment was very clean when he arrived and turned into a horror show within 24 hours, so I'm not really sure why he was cleaning at me.)

Anyway, in the last couple of months I've been trying to embrace the single life. This includes making an effort to meet other single people, love myself more, and not worry about potentially dying alone under a landslide of my own magazines, books, and records. In an effort to date casually and meet more people who share some of my core values (A love of bicycles, books, vegetables, experimental film, and drone music...) I've been engaged in the dreaded apogee of consumer culture: ONLINE DATING. For the most part, I'm happy to say that as much as I am disturbed by the fact that I have been essentially shopping for companionship, I've had mostly positive interactions with all online sources from that site that I would prefer to call OKBuddy...Because, I really doubt that I'll meet my life partner on the internet. (Though, clearly, I haven't ruled it out.)

Regardless of my ambivalence toward online dating, Wednesday night OKBuddy handed me an offer I couldn't refuse: Dinner at Candle 79 and Spiritualized at Radio City. OK buddy, I'm in! The offer came from a Chicago-based fellow who I had recently "checked out" when he appeared in my match listings due to our similar interests in veganism, bicycles, hot tubs, tattoos, terrible comedic popcorn movies, and mid-1990's indie rock. He was planning a whirlwind trip to New York for the Spiritualized concert and his friend, who had planned to join him from Philly was no longer able to make it. Would I, strange but nice-seeming girl from the internet be interested in saving this strange but nice-seeming (If a bit forward in his request) boy from having to eat an indulgent meal and sit through an emotionally intense musical experience alone? Yes. Yes, I would.

Friday arrives. I'm nearly nervous, I eat very little all day in anticipation of deliciousness. After a busy day of organizing applications to the artist residency program I am interning with, I hop on the 5 train uptown to meet said stranger from the internet

I'm glad that I didn't. The food was spectacular. Stranger from the internet (SFI from now on.) is capable of carrying on a conversation, is a quiet and well-mannered diner, and laughs at my jokes. We eat the following:

Avocado-Tomato Tartare with Mushroom Ceviche and House made Crackers. (Raw.)
While this wouldn't have been my first choice off the appetizer list, it was quite delicious. And it primed my appetite well for the entrée to follow. I think, had it been spicier, or hit with a bit more acid, it would have been the perfect simple opener. It was just, I don't know, a bit simple.

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake (SFI's order)
This is what I had planned to order all day. But, when our charming and extremely handsome (Call me!) waiter read the specials I was distracted by an ornate sounding seitan special. Luckily SFI is open to sharing, so I got to try it. And, I mist say, this is a lovely little dinner. It combines so many textures and the red-pepper and North African curry purée really transforms the chickpea cake into a little miracle. Again, I would have made it spicier.

I had the Seitan special which came breaded on top of greens, wild mushrooms, and farro in a sour Summer cherry sauce. I had been freezing in the office all day and the special was rich, warm, and so satisfying after a day of shivering. I generally steer clear of meat-like vegan foods as I prefer less-processed things and generally don't like anything that tastes anything like chicken. But, this was an exception. I'd say that this meal was a definite example of something you could present to a skeptical non-vegan to show them just how satisfying, flavorful, and rich vegan food can be.

I also had a great glass of wine. The Maysara, Biodynamic Pinot Gris (2008, Oregon) was really dry and had a beautiful mineral palette that paired really nicely with the cherry sauce on the seitan. I'm going to have to find a bottle of this wine to have at home! Hopefully they'll stock it at Astor Place Wines, my go to spot in the neighborhood. 

After dinner (We went Dutch, lest you think this all sounds a bit like I'm moonlighting as a hip escort.), we rushed over to Radio City, arriving just as Spiritualized took the stage with a full orchestra and a gospel choir to perform Jason Pierce/ J. Spaceman's epic 1997 classic Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space. Now, this is one of my favorite albums of all time. Considering that the last five months have found me emotionally wrecked, disillusioned, and a little out of control sitting 14 rows from the stage and being completely permeated with the big walls of vibrating strings and horns and voices and guitars and drums and an organ was like a homeopathic intervention into the core of my delicate being.

This terrible iPhone picture is my ridiculous attempt to capture the un-capturable.

This isn't the kind of thing one generally wants to experience with a stranger. But, it was actually great. We were both effected and I don't think he noticed that I was crying and he had the good taste to not talk to me during the concert or try to pretend that we shared some sort of intimate connection because we'd just had this really powerful experience. (I take this as a good sign that SFI and I will hang out again and have legitimate friendship potential. Rare are the individuals who can navigate these kinds of experiences without treading too close or being too removed.) The performance was incredible--A bit beyond words. The recording is big and complex, the lyrics speak to a rock bottom that is a little too familiar, but being in the room and being able to feel the sounds as they moved through the air and knowing that they were touching all of these other people was really, really amazing. As my friend Ben said in an e-mail today, "Thank you music!" I will note that all of those freaks who were making out during the show sort of gave me the chills. Ladies and Gentleman is nothing is not a a suicide letter to a broken heart. It is most definitely not the kind of thing that makes you feel twee and romantic, its dark and unpredictable and chaotic. I suspect that many of those doe-eyed smoochers have not really given this magnum opus too deep of a listen.

After the concert we ran into a friend that I hadn't seen in about five years. So, SFI and I went our separate ways. He was remarkably good-natured about my decision to have a drink with my friend rather than continue our outing. (We have communicated since, so I don't think its because he was trying to get rid of me...Hah!) I was pleasantly surprised, given that all the negative things that have come from my experience on OKBuddy involve men and women who think that they are entitled to be aggressive when you are a) no longer interested; b) too busy or not interested in responding to them; c) have an extenuating circumstance that causes you to cut an outing short. My friend is one of those people who is nearly impossible to make plans with and I was so happy to be able to catch up with him. Though, in reality, we were both a bit too blown apart by the festival of sound we had just experienced to communicate too much. I'd say more, but our conversation traversed a lot of raw and private ground. To discuss it with the levity and ambiguity required in this forum would trivialize it and feel exploitative. Suffice to say, when I arrived back to the apartment and snuggled up with the cat and had to chat with J, I was less irritated by his presence having been reminded that sincere, honest, and brave people exist and that the world is full of amazing experiences even in the most ordinary moments.