Thursday, February 19, 2015

Caterer Review: Golden Era

Last week's book release party at Hastings was catered by Golden Era, the vegan restaurant right behind school on Golden Gate at Larkin. In its previous incarnation, Golden Era was a tribute to the Supreme Master cult, and I stayed away because the pamphlets and constant TV adulation infomercials annoyed me (this is also why I no longer frequent Ananda Fuara, which is run by the Sri Chimnoy cult, and would love for my vegan eating-out options to be cult-free.)

But it seems that the move to Golden Gate and the new, swanky decor have improved the situation. No longer does one see cult references--only pleasant service and delicious pan-Asian food. I love eating there for lunch, and asked the event organizers to use Golden Era to cater my book release. It's my party, and I wanted the refreshments to reflect my ethics--I wouldn't feel comfortable celebrating with animal products.

Golden Era delivered with panache and grace! There were a million rolls and dumplings: tofu rolls, avocado rolls, vegan wontons, curry rolls in tortillas, various dim sum offerings, and vegan "drumsticks". The fake meat, in the Buddhist tradition, was so fragrant and delicious that one of my vegetarian colleagues almost left, thinking there was "nothing for him to eat." Highly recommended.

Easy Stir-Fry

I'm off to Phoenix for a conference and a book event - very exciting! I have no idea what the food will be like, so I decided to have once last glorious meal at home, in the hopes that it's vegan marvelousness will last me until Saturday night. The good folks at Albert and Eve regaled us with three broccoli heads, so I used a giant one for this recipe, as well as half a superfirm tofu package. It was easy peasy.

1 broccoli head, cut into florets, including cubed bits of the stems
1 tsp safflower oil
1/2 package super-firm tofu, cut into cubes
100gr buckwheat soba noodles
3 garlic cloves
1 cubic inch ginger
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha

Heat up oil in wok and some water in a pot. Mash garlic, slice ginger thinly, and add. Then, add tofu cubes, the sriracha, and half of the soy sauce, and brown on both sides. Then, add the broccoli florets and the remaining soy sauce - you may need to add some water, as well - and stir-fry. While this is happening, cook soba noodles al dente in the pot. Strain and add to the wok, and stir-fry the noodles with the veg-tofu combo. Serve right away.

Pickled Turnips

Our CSA adventures continue to reward us with great produce. We've expanded our box from 1-2 people to 3-4 people, even though there's only two (humans) at home, because we eat a lot of vegetables--they constitute the bulk of our diet--and because we frequently have friends over for dinner.

When we asked for turnips, though, we didn't know we were going to get TWELVE! Turnips are wonderful vegetables, but even I was stumped as to what to do with so many within a week. Enter my beloved friend Dena and her pickled turnip recipe. Dena is one of the overlords at the wonderful Israeli pickling, fermenting and curing blog Feedhamutzim, and always has terrific recipes that involve bacteria friends.

I changed the recipe a bit, because I didn't have some of the ingredients, and ended up doing this:

 8 turnips
2 golden beets (if you use red beets, the turnips will turn a pleasing pink color. I simply didn't have any at hand.)
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp peppercorns
3 tbsp salt
2 lettuce leaves
2 mason jars, slightly larger than normal (I can see making this in one giant jar. It's an art as well as a science

Slice turnips and beets thinly and pack into jars. Add 3 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp mustard seeds and 1 tbsp peppercorns, as well as 1.5 tbsp salt. Cover with water to the rim. Place a lettuce leaf right at the rim of the jar and screw the lid on tightly. Let sit for three days and you're home free.

These are a lovely addition to any salad or dish, and are especially pleasing with falafel.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kale Chips

Kale has become quite the celebrity in the last few years, to the point of parody, and with good reason. But I've liked and enjoyed it ever since I came to the States and cook it frequently. One of my favorite recipes is kale chips, which are delicious and ridiculously easy to make. I've always made them with curly kale, like these folks, but our CSA box arrived with Dino Kale instead, so I used that.

This lunch batch is purely kale and a tiny drizzle of olive oil, but there are many variations on that theme:

  • massage the kale in lemon and avocado
  • sprinkle a flavored salt
  • add cajun spice
  • add finely chopped garlic cloves 
The important things remain constant: preheat the oven to about 350 Fahrenheit, make sure the leaves are properly massaged in oil, place them in one layer on the baking sheet, and don't let them burn. 

CSA Showdown!

 We're drowning in excellent produce!

As we contemplate which CSA to join, we're ordering produce from a number of great places. What you see in the photo, save for the big pumpkin in the back, is the combined loot from two deliveries: Albert & Eve and Farm Fresh To You. The produce is fresh and wonderful in both boxes; we get more or less the same stuff (unsurprisingly, as both outfits send out organic, seasonal, local produce); and the price is comparable. We're going to have to make some tough decisions, and I'm even considering going with both CSAs on alternating weeks!

In the meantime, this became a good problem to have, and I decided to get cooking. I ate some fresh tangelos, tangerines, and apples, and am waiting for the pears to ripen. Which, as a friend informed me, does not happen on the tree, so it's worth a wait. 

Meanwhile, for lunch, I'm having steamed broccoli and kale chips. I'll devote a separate post to the latter. As to the former, since I'm also making a giant pot of soup, with carrot, squash, celery, beets, beet greens, onions, and broccoli stems, it made sense to simply steam the broccoli florets atop the soup, thus getting two things done at once. I found this magical steamer/colander, flexible and pliable and shaped like a cabbage leaf, at the Denver Museum of Art store, and use it almost on a daily basis. Steaming something over a cooking soup is a classic time and space saver, and as a bonus, the steamed vegetable on top comes out more fragrant.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Japanese Rice Treats

Chad had to head out to martial arts and decided to prepare Japanese rice treats for the potluck. I learned something new!

We started with 3 cups of lightly milled brown rice and cooked them in 6 cups of water. Then, we split the resulting rice into two bowls, left some of it unseasoned and seasoned the remainder with lots of yasai fumi furikake. Ordinarily, rice seasoning has some dried fish in it, but this one is completely vegan.

We made big balls out of the unseasoned rice, hiding an umeboshi plum in each ball and decorating each ball with a wee bit of ume on top. We wrapped them in nori. This process, be forewarned, requires a little bowl of water to dip your fingers between balls, as the rice is (and should be) somewhat sticky.

For our next trick, we made onigiri: wetting our fingers throughout the work, we sculpted oblong shapes out of the furikake-seasoned rice and wrapped each with a nori strip. This was somewhat complicated by the participation of the household cats, who adore nori, and especially Archer, who snatched several of the ready-cut strips from our very hands. But eventually we managed to make something like 30 cute little units. I'm sure the folks at martial arts training will love to snack on this and am delighted to have learned something new!

Brunch with Northwest Friends

It was delightful to host two good friends from Port Townsend, WA, for brunch yesterday! While usually, when I host folks that are used to mainstream food, I try to be non-intimidating in my menu choices, our friends are both avid cooks and one of them is a real expert on pickles and fermentation. So, I proudly served the house kombucha (made from jasmine tea) with the following menu:

  • Kale with Oranges and Ginger
  • Mushrooms and Vegan Sausage with Caramelized Onions
  • Roasted Yams with Rosemary
  • Fruit Soup

All vegetables and fruit in the menu came from our CSA bag. And it was all pretty easy to make.

For the kale, cut large (1-inch) strips out of an entire package of dinosaur kale. After sauteeing a bit of garlic and ginger in some olive oil, add the kale, a peeled, sliced orange, some veg broth, and sautee till the kale wilts.

For the mushroom hash, thinly slice one onion and caramelize in olive oil. Add 3 cups of button mushrooms, 3 sliced vegan sausages, a bit of hot sauce, and some Ajvar Mild Vegetable Spread. Cook until everything is the desired consistency.

For the roasted yams, slice yams and sweet potatoes pretty thinly and place, in one layer, on an olive-oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle with sliced onion cloves and fresh rosemary. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 20-30 mins.

For the fruit soup, see the compote instructions and add a dash of brandy. This time I used pears in lieu of the apples and it turned out wonderful.

The kombucha deserves a post of its own sometime in the near future.

Monday, January 12, 2015

No-Nonsense Working People Soup

I'm home after a very long workday, which followed an all-night grading session; it's been a good day, but I'm wiped out and ready to go to bed early. Happily, it's super easy to whip up a quick dinner soup when one has recently cooked pinto beans.

3 carrots
2 green zucchini
5-6 celery stalks
big handful parsley
big handful cilantro
1 1/2 cup pinto beans, cooked
1 teabag Numi Savory Tea
2 heaping tablespoons Ajvar mild vegetable spread

Cut vegetables into 1/2 inch cubes. Mince herbs. Place everything in a pot and cover with water or broth. Gently place Numi teabag atop the soup and let cook for 25-30 mins.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Old Skool Stir-Fry

 In the spirit of using up all our produce before our first CSA box arrives, here's an old-skool stir-fry, full of vegetables and wonderful things.

3 carrots
2 large zucchini
3 beets + beet greens
a bunch of asparagus
3 garlic cloves
1 square inch ginger
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp sake
1/2 package extra-firm tofu
1 spoon safflower oil

Chop vegetables into sticks or cubes. Cut tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Mince garlic and ginger.

Place garlic, ginger and oil in wok and heat up until fragrant. Then, add soy, vinegar, hot sauce, and sake. Add tofu cubes to wok and sautee until coated with sauce. Add vegetables and stir-fry atop a medium-hot burner for about 20 mins. Serve over brown rice.

A Memorable Meal at Greens

I love cooking so much, and enjoy inventing recipes at home, that lots of what passes for a vegan entree in restaurants is simply not that appealing... but sometimes it's really worthwhile to go, because truly great places make things I would not take the trouble to replicate at home. Last night, happily, was such an occasion! I met with friends at Greens, the wonderful vegetarian restaurant at the Marina. Since it was Saturday night, we ate their prix fixe dinner.

Greens is a phenomenal restaurant if you're a lacto-ovo vegetarian; less so right off the bat if you're vegan. But there are some vegan options too, and many of their dishes can easily be made vegan without the cheese. Their fennel salad was terrific, as was my appetizer - a little salad of grilled artichokes, radicchio and a cleverly sliced delicata squash with warm Italian butter beans. They simply served it to me without the cheese!

The entree I got was a filo roll stuffed with savoy spinach, yellow finn potatoes, English peas, ginger, chilies, and cilantro, and drizzled with coconut tamarind sauce and grilled serrano salsa verde. They served it with coral lentil dal, roasted carrots and cauliflower. It was a sophisticated and layered dish, certainly way more complex than I would make at home.

For dessert, I ordered the coconut rice pudding and a vanilla rooibos. It was delicious and came with a quince compote that reminded me of my grandma's cooking.

It was really good times, but a bit too rich for me; I started this morning with tea and a soymilk smoothie (bananas, strawberries, raspberries). For lunch I'll simply steam some asparagus, beets, carrots, and zucchini over some brown rice that I'll cook with a bag of Numi savory tea. I'm trying to use up all of our still-good produce for things I can pack and take with me to work Mon through Wed. On Wednesday afternoon we're getting our first box from Albert and Eve!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

My New Cookbooks

To get excited about the transition to veganism, I lined up all my vegan cookbooks in a row. Lots of new ones, as well as some old favorites. Here are the ones I've been using recently:

Afro Vegan: Fabulous! Lots of work, but the authentic condiments and spices are exciting.
The Asian Vegan Kitchen: Ditto. Really great recipes, with no compromises as to the authentic ingredients and spices.
Pure Vegan: Fancy book with pretty pictures. Pretty unrealistic - lots of effort involved - but the things I've made from this, such as the pistachio cake, came out fantastic.
True Brews: terrific advice on kombucha brewing, which I follow to the letter and get fantastic results with every batch. I'll post something about kombucha soon.
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: Funny and useful little book! The carrot cupcakes are fun.
The Vegan Slow Cooker: A bit of a disappointment: their recipes use canned beans, etc. I make my own stuff from scratch.

Which vegan cookbooks do you like?

Catering Book Release Parties!

I'm happily expecting two book release parties--one at work, on 2/11, and one at Book Passage, in the Ferry Building, on 2/25, at 6pm. The invite is for the latter event is here, and I hope you'll come and bring friends!

As I started to prepare both events I realized I'd feel really bad if the food served did not align with my ethics. I really find it difficult to justify eating animal products (for us humans; my cats are a different story, and one we shall discuss another day.) So, my workplace is kindly accommodating me and ordering a nice spread from Golden Era Restaurant which, to my great joy, is located right behind school. I imagine their kale smoothies will be a bit too much to expect folks to contend with, but their wonderful rice paper tofu and avocado wraps are sure to please.

For the bookstore event, I'm having the good people from Local Love treat all of us to wonderful vegan morsels. I'm really excited about the menu, and am keeping it a surprise even though I love chatting about it; suffice to say, the colors on the table will match the green and orange on the book cover.

I'm so glad about the proliferation of businesses serving folks like me, and I'm sure all attendees, vegan and nonvegan alike, will enjoy their fresh and delicious fare.

Chia Bowl

Another delightful breakfast I've come to enjoy recently is a nice chilled chia bowl. This consists of allowing chia seeds to soak in almond milk and turn it into gelatinous goodness. Even better with lots of lovely fruit, and can be mixed with fruit from chilled compote. Here goes:

1 bowl unsweetened almond milk (plain or vanilla)
1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup any fruit, thinly sliced

At night, place seeds in almond milk bowl to soak. In the morning, garnish with lots of fresh fruit. Voila.

Warm Compote

After the dire predictions, #hellastorm, the monstrous Bay Area storm, turned out to be far less horrendous than we expected, but any excuse for warm breakfast fare was welcome. And I've kept up the habit, even though the drought is back and the days are sunny and cool.

My favorite thing for breakfast nowadays is some warm apple compote with a few bits of dried fruit for taste. I make it in the slow cooker, though I'm sure you could make a very decent version on the stove. Here's how I make enough for the two of us:

3 apples
handful of raisins
2 dried apricots or mangoes
3 cloves

In the evening, chop apples into cubes and thinly slice apricots or mangoes. Place everything in slow cooker, cover with water, and turn on to "low." Wake up in the morning to a fantastic breakfast.

Welcome to the Casa Corazones Pantry!


I'm not even sure who's reading here anymore! I let this blog fall by the wayside for several years, writing instead about prisons and finishing my book. But there's been plenty of kitchen action going on! We are now happy homeowners and occasional farmers in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, and despite working long hours outside the house we try to make it a priority to cook and eat together at home. I recently turned forty, am still swimming and started riding my new awesome bicycle, and we're raising the world's most fantastic two cats, Spade and Archer.

The good news, foodwise, are now that I've returned to veganism after a 20-year hiatus. It feels good to be ethically comfortable with what I eat, and many of the compromises of the last few years had started feeling like unsatisfactory rationalizations. Chad eats cheese and eggs, but less and less now that what we eat together has no animal products.


Our happy neighborhood location means that our produce shopping is usually done at Casa Lucaz, which has a lot of fresh produce. We try to shop seasonally, even though they stock imported, out-of-season items; their prices and kindness are hard to beat.

We also grow some of our vegetables and fruit in our backyard! We have a lemon tree and enjoyed our own tomatoes all summer long. Right now we have kale and chard outside, and fava beans, and many herbs in the back, and we're hoping to have heirloom corn and more tomatoes next summer, as well as other vegetables.

Our very busy lives mean that we are not as diligent about shopping as we should be, and I'm therefore looking for a CSA. Next week I hope we'll be getting our inaugural box from Albert & Eve Organics, and I very much hope to renew the tradition of posting the recipes we make with the contents of our box.

Legumes and Grains

Another big novelty is that we are now the happy owners of not only an enormous kitchen and a fabulous 1950s Wedgewood stove, but also a couple of slow cookers. I'm finding them indispensable and frequently use them for cooking beans, vegetables, oatmeal, and my favorite--warm compote for breakfast.

Lots of the home cookery relies on beans, which we buy canned from reputable, decent places, or dry from the good people at Rancho Gordo. Our favorite brown rice is the lightly milled Sukoyaka brand. And we like brown rice pasta from Tinkyada.

Soy, Tofu, and Analogs

The world of vegan convenience foods has sure changed since the last time I was vegan! At home we regularly stock unsweetened soymilk and almond milk, preferably from Westsoy. Delicious, albeit expensive, cheeses are available as well, and I treat myself occasionally to the creations from Miyoko's Kitchen and Chao Slices. Field Roast makes wonderful sausages and other alternatives to meat. And the new Just Mayo is a big hit around here, too.

Nuts and Dried Fruit

We try and buy these snacks in bulk; Alfieri often have a booth at the Heart of the City Farmers Market.

Please stay tuned for upcoming fabulous recipes!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


What a terrific little recipe this is; a mix of fruit salad, an oatmealish-substance without oatmeal, and lots of kick from dried fruit. Makes for an excellent breakfast. Feeds four.

Two red apples
two oranges
five medjool dates
five dried figs
five dried plums
30 almonds
20 macadamia nuts
soymilk or almond milk (plain or vanilla flavored)
orange, apple or prune juice

Soak almonds, macadamia nuts, figs and plums in boiling water first thing in the morning.
Thinly chop apples and oranges. Combine in a bowl with a splash of soy or almond milk and a splash of juice. Strain nuts, figs and plums, and thinly chop or grind. Add to fruit in bowl and mix well until thing reaches cereal-like consistency. Add cinnamon to taste.