Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Durian Day!

I like to eat local, in season fruit as much as possible, but the offerings in my climate this time of year leave lots to be desired. I'm sorry, Colorado, but your apples and pears (which aren't even grown here, and have been supplemented with so many Ecuadorian bananas) have really begun to bore me. In times like this, I need a quick fix of tropical fruit before returning to the stupor of Winter produce.

Enter, the durian.

There's no neutrality when it comes to this fruit; everyone who's heard of the spiky monster either loves or hates it. I belong to the former category, and am undaunted by stories of its bearers being banned from public transport, or insistence that its odor is miraculously disgusting. And it is. To me, durian smells like garlic and feet, but sweet. That aside, it's really delicious, with a custardy texture and rich flavor. It's purported to have aphrodesiac qualities, but I wouldn't know; my Mr. won't come near after I've eaten the stuff. In Malaysia, there are all-you-can-eat durian stalls, where for $5 US, you can indulge in enough of the fruit to make you reek for days. I'm saving up for a plane ticket.

To cure my durian craving, I visited a larger Asian market in Denver. I've never seen fresh durian this far inland, but whole frozen durian is usually available, and the quality isn't compromised much. In addition to 2 durians, I found young Thai coconuts for about $1 each. I bought 13 of them.

I immediately cracked open and drank a young coconut, then cut its flesh into thin noodles. Tossed with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and lime juice, it was just as refreshing as the coconut water.

And some other treats. Clockwise from bottom: miniature bananas, cherimoya, winter melon, young coconut, papaya, mango, more cherimoya, and longan.

The bananas were so dense and creamy, eating them felt like biting into a stick of butter. Too heavy for everyday tastes, but really nice in smoothies.

Cherimoya is my very favorite fruit, with a flavor akin to lemon custard and the appearance of lizard skin. I remember eating it for the first time when I was 10, and being stunned--with my diet of hot pockets and ice cream--that fruit could be so delicious. They're just lovely.

Here's jackfruit, which I found fresh and trimmed. The mildly sweet fruit has a stringy texture, and can be spiced and made into a delicious taco filling.

Back to the durian. Cut open, they look like this. There are large sections of creamy fruit within the shell, each of which has a seed.

After some yoga, it was all I wanted. But this one didn't know what to make of it at first.

Then she dug into it, and we were durian maniacs!

And later, mounds of durian, looking (and tasting) very much like ice cream.

Good fruit always cheers me up, and was the perfect brightener for this dreary day. Off to thaw my second durian for tomorrow...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Raw Nachos

I will not call them rawchos. I will not call them rawchos. I will not call them rawchos.

I've been eating mostly fruit and greens lately, but changed pace for tonight's supper, a creamy, spicy, raw version of classic nachos. Here, Buckwheat Flax Crisps are topped with Nacho Cheddar Sauce, Taco Spiced Crumbles, guacamole, spinach, tomatoes, and green onions. Vary the vegetables or serve over fresh greens; the components are all really versatile. And if you don't want to dehydrate chips all day, or don't care if they're not raw, the toppings pair fantastically with regular corn chips.

Buckwheat Flax Crisps
about 4 dozen crisps
These chips are neutral in flavor, allowing for plenty of additions: stir in several tablespoons of herbs, some nutritional yeast, or vegetable pulp leftover from juicing. If you don't have a dehydrator, spread the mixture onto a silpat or other nonstick baking surface. Place in the oven on the "warm" setting, opening it occasionally to prevent the temperature from going too high.

3/4 cup raw buckwheat
1 carrot, cut roughly into chunks
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup flax seeds (I prefer golden, but brown is fine)

Soak buckwheat for 8 hours or overnight, and rinse in a strainer until the water runs clear. Set aside to drain.

In a food processor, combine carrot, red bell pepper, garlic, lemon or lime juice, sea salt. Add buckwheat, and continue processing until pasty and nearly smooth. Add flax seeds, and process briefly until combined. The flax seeds will remain whole, and that's as it should be.

Spread on non-stick sheets and dehydrate at 105 degrees F for 8-10 hours or until completely dry and crisp, turning once. Stored in an airtight container or plastic bag, the crisps will keep for several months.

Cashew Nacho Sauce
about 2 cups
This is a variation on the Sharp White Cheddar Sauce in Cook, Eat, Thrive. The key to this cheese is flax seeds, which lend a gooey, meltable texture. If you're making the sauce for someone with a nut allergy, hempseeds can easily be substituted for cashews.

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour and drained
1/2 cup water
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1/4-1/2 (depending on the spiciness you prefer) jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1 clove garlic
4 teaspoons raw tahini or untoasted sesame seeds
4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt

In a blender, combine all ingredients, and blend until completely smooth. This will take several minutes; stop the machine as needed to scrape down the sides. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes, where it will thicken slightly.

Use immediately, or pour into a glass jar and refrigerate for up to a week. The sauce will thicken on refrigeration, so gently re-warm it in a bain marie before using.

Taco Spiced Crumbles
1 1/2 cups
Try these minimally-processed crumbles instead of soy or gluten-based versions in your tacos, enchiladas, and salads.

1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (or additional sunflower seeds)
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (about 2-3)
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
several dashes cayenne (optional, for a bit of heat)

Soak walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds in water for 1-2 hours. Drain, rinse, and set aside to drain fully. Soak the sundried tomatoes for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Drain, and set aside.

In a food processor, combine soaked tomatoes, lime juice, garlic, sea salt, ground cumin, paprika, and cayenne, if using. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add reserved walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, and continue processing until well combined; the texture should be crumbly, not too chunky, but not quite a paste. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside until ready to use. The crumbles will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

To assemble the Nachos:
Scatter a layer of Buckwheat Flax Crisps over a shallow platter, and top with Cashew Nacho Sauce and Taco Spiced Crumbles. Add whatever toppings you like: guacamole, diced tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, black olives, jalapeno slices, and wedges of lime alongside.

Eat immediately, as the crisps will soften when soaked with cheese. The perfect drink pairing? A guava-tinged kombucha sangria: in a large pitcher, stir together 1 bottle Pure Synergy Guava Goddess Kombucha, a quarter of a fresh pineapple, cut into 3/4" cubes, the juice of 1 lime, and a 750mL bottle of sparkling water. Sweeten to taste with agave nectar or evaporated cane juice, and enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Assistance for Haiti

Like all of you reading this, I am shocked and devastated at the horrible disaster which took place this week. For generations, Haiti has been a country in need of investment, development, and freedom, and in events like this, that need becomes apparent to the whole world. I spent a month in Haiti with a medical team in 2002, and can attest to what a remarkable country it is. The land is beautiful. The people are incredible, full of life and hope and strength.

And it is so trite to mention, but yes, the food is amazing.

There are numerous organizations focusing on Haiti right now, so please do give generously to larger ones like Doctors without Borders. For assistance that is specifically vegan, Food for Life is preparing to begin vegan food distribution in the next few days. (FFL does use dairy in some of its India projects, but no animal products will be used in the Haiti relief effort.) UK-based VegFam doesn't currently have a project in Haiti, but I expect they will soon. As a completely ethically vegan organization that devotes over 90% of funds directly to projects, VegFam is a great food-based relief program. To generate some revenue with vegan treats, see this info on putting together a vegan bake sale from Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Also, Herbivore Clothing Company and Ink Brigade are currently offering a fundraiser selling I Love Haiti t-shirts for $15 + $3 shipping. All profits go to aid groups working in Haiti.

For information on donating to animal-based organizations, see this extensive post from easyvegan.

The greatest need will be for ongoing development beyond the scope of this disaster, so I'm making an appeal to give to an organization focused on the lasting prosperity of Haiti. Hospitals and schools will be in particular need of long-term help, so please consider donating to more local institutions like Haiti Water, providing safe water to Haitians, Hôpital Bon Samaritain, a great hospital I've volunteered at, or Sodopreca, the Dominican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Safety, freedom, and prosperity to the people of Haiti.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Favorite Things

In keeping with my habit of listing favorite things, here's what I love this year:

photo by Art Heffron

Vintage ovens. Whether you crave the sleek simplicity of vintage design or just want an inexpensive, well-made appliance, a vintage oven might be the perfect choice for your kitchen. They are superior in quality, relatively simple to maintain (and fix), and just plain gorgeous. I found my 1950's O'Keefe and Merritt on craigslist for a very reasonable price and partially restored it myself. Examining gas lines and cleaning gunk with the hood propped is like working on an old car (the thing weighs nearly as much!), and I feel knowledgeable and hardcore and connected to something timeless every time I so much as boil water.

Raw cacao nibs. It's always some kind of chocolate, isn't it? Raw chocolate can be found as whole beans, powder, handcrafted chocolates, and nibs, and I really appreciate the latter. When I want something to sprinkle on my Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard or tuck into raw granola, this is what I reach for. A little goes a long way, and at $10 per pound--which will last for months--these are an economical way to try raw chocolate.

Making your own salad dressings. Becoming a kitchen alchemist and adorning salads with your potions is fresher, less expensive, and usually tastier than buying the bottled stuff. Here's an easy and delicious one:

Agave Mustard Poppyseed Dressing
Serve this simple fat-free dressing over a giant salad of baby romaine, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, avocado, red onion, sunflower seeds, raisins, and sprouts.

3 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Whisk everything together in a small bowl. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Publishing a cookbook. I just had to include this one; writing a cookbook is a sure favorite. It was a complete delight to create, and Cook, Eat, Thrive: Vegan Recipes from Everyday to Exotic will be available very soon. Having the support and encouragement of fantastic readers is a close second.

Vegan road trips. Oh, they used to be so difficult. We were limited to subway sandwiches and truck stop coffee, and it was awful. But not anymore. I just returned from a 3,000 mile road trip on which I visited almost 20 vegan-friendly restaurants. And thanks to a well-stocked cooler, I enjoyed snacks like chevre encrusted in black pepper, raw cacao brownies, and an endless supply of fresh fruit. More on this soon--it was amazing.

Chia seeds. Also called salba, these tiny gems are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and amino acids, and swell when mixed with water, like tapioca. I keep them soaked in a jar in the refrigerator (mix about 1/3 cup seeds with 2 cups water and stir well), to quickly use in drinks. My favorite? A simple drink sparkling with orange and vanilla:

Chia Creamsicle Fizz

1 drink

2-3 tablespoons soaked chia seeds
1 packet stevia, or 2 teaspoons agave nectar
juice of 1 orange--I ream it directly into the glass
seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 1 cup (sometimes more, sometimes less) sparkling water

In a tall glass, combine all ingredients except sparkling water, and stir well. Pour in water slowly to prevent it from flowing over, and give it another stir. Serve immediately.

These are a few of my favorite things. How about yours?