Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New York Statehood Thanksgiving Dinner

New York ratified the US Constitution on July 26, 1788 to become the 11th state. A. and I are moving to New York in September and we've already got an apartment for super cheap right near Prospect Park. For this we are thankful and excited. Neither of us had eaten a Tofurkey before and were excited. The texture of the thing is squeaky and it tastes great, and for this we are thankful. The weather has been autumnal, and for this we are Thanksgiving but not excited.

A. prepared the Tofurkey according to package directions, except that she made the excellent addition of a couple of celery stalks to the pot. Sides included leftover mac 'n' cheeze, canned cranberry sauce, and asparagus sauteed in Earth Balance spread and minced garlic.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

First In-vitro Baby Mac 'n' Cheeze

Louise Joy Brown was the first human to be born following IVF. One of the two doctors who developed IVF (and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for it last year) attended Louise's wedding in 2004. (Can I get an "aw.") To my great surprise, Albino Luciani (who would soon after become Pope John Paul I) "expressed concerns about the possibility that artificial insemination could lead to women being used as 'baby factories,' but also refused to condemn the parents of the child" (Wiki). Part of me wants to advocate for adoption over IVF, and another (stronger) part wants to tell that part to shut up and stop universalizing. Giving birth is an awesome (in the formal sense) experience. I recently listened to a new mother describe how birth was singularly painful yet mostly manageable because it's purposive and purposeful. It's transformative and creative in a way no other physiological pain is because it doesn't signal that something is terribly wrong.

Something that is unequivocally right: this meal! Well, not unequivocally; I'd use only 1/2-3/4 of a package of Daiya next time. And maybe heat the kale at a somewhat lower temperature. 425F?

Prep time: approx. 45 min.
Servings: approx. 6-8

1 lb. macaroni
1 c. nutritional yeast
2/3 c. vegetable broth
1 1/3 c. water
1 spoonful tahini
1 spoonful Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
ground sea salt
ground black pepper
1 lb. soft silken tofu
1 package Daiya mozzarella
1/4 avocado, sliced
3 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1/2 bundle of kale (4-7 stalks), leaves torn

1. Cook the macaroni.
2. In a smallish pot over medium-high heat, stir half the nutritional yeast, tahini, and mustard into the water, broth, and lemon juice. Add lots of salt and pepper.
3. After the sauce has been boiling for a few minutes, reduce to medium heat and let reduce. Stir in the rest of the yeast. Reduce heat to a minimum once the sauce is approx. half the original volume.
4. Preheat the oven to 500F. On a baking sheet or shallow pan, toss kale leaves with some olive oil or Earth Balance spread. Bake for approx. 8 min. (I wasn't paying attention, though, so don't take my word for it) or until kale is crispy but not burnt.
5. When the macaroni is cooked, drain and pour into a casserole tray. With your hands, mash the tofu up with the macaroni. Pour the cheeze sauce over it and top with Daiya, then stir everything together. Bake for 5 min.
6. Top with avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, and Cholula hot sauce.

Friday, July 22, 2011

First Western Showdown Garden Herbs

On July 21, 1865 Wild Bill Hickok killed Davis Tutt in Springfield, MO. What a crazy-ass time/place the Wild West was. Here's the story told in dialogue lifted from the Wikipedia page, edited for tense:

"I think you are wrong, Dave," says Hickok. "It's only twenty-five dollars. I have a memorandum in my pocket."
"Fine, I'll just keep your watch 'til you pay me that thirty-five dollars!"
[Humiliated and stone-faced with anger, Hickock quietly warns Tutt not to wear the watch in public.]
Tutt sneers back, "I intend on wearing it first thing in the morning!"
"If you do, I'll shoot you," Bill replies bluntly and calmly. "I'm warning you here and now not to come across that town square with it on."

[At a distance of about 75 yards, Hickok stops, facing Tutt.]
He calls out, "Dave, here I am."
[Hickok cocks (or ckoks) his pistol and holsters it on his hip.]
He gives a final warning, "Don't you come across here with that watch."
[Hickok's bullet strikes Tutt in the left side between the fifth and seventh ribs (in the sixth rib?).]
Tutt calls out, "Boys, I'm killed."

[Judge Sempronius (Sempronius!) Boyd gives the jury two apparently contradictory instructions. The jury deliberates for only "an hour or two."]
They pronounce their verdict, "Not guilty."
[As stated by a modern historian, "Nothing better describes the times than the fact that dangling a watch held as security for a poker debt was widely regarded as a justifiable provocation for resorting to firearms."]

There's no recipe here. The photo above is of chives, curly parsley, sage leaves, and some runty onions A. and I harvested after weeding our host's little plot in the community garden. The onions are really starchy but taste pretty much like potato fries when deep fried.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

First Parking Meter Soup

[Photo by A.]

The first parking meter was developed over two years by two engineering professors at Oklahoma State University and installed in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935. The meter was called "Black Maria." I want to know why and I don't want to know why.

A. requested this soup, based on a version I made a couple months ago but didn't post about (apparently). It's thick and nutritious and delicious. Nuff said, here's the deets.

prep. time: approx. 1 hr
servings: approx. 8-10

2 c. vegetable broth
6 c. water
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large yellow zucchini (or summer squash), chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 small jalapeños, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. quinoa
1 lb. firm silken tofu, cubed
4 stalks kale, leaves torn
1 c. frozen corn
1 15-oz. can black beans
1 package Daiya pepper jack
5 spoonfuls Tofutti sour cream
juice of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 bunch cilantro
ground sea salt
ground black pepper

1. Sauté onion with oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once slightly caramelized, add vegetable broth and water.
2. Meanwhile, sauté zucchini, bell pepper, and jalapeños in a pan. Once browned toss in garlic for a couple minutes, then add pan contents to the pot. Bring to a simmer.
3. Add lime and lemon juice, cilantro, and seasonings. Stir in quinoa.
4. After 5 minutes, add tofu. After another 5 minutes, add kale. After another couple minutes, add corn and black beans.
5. Once quinoa is cooked (should only take 15 minutes) and soup is desired viscosity, turn off the heat and stir in Daiya cheese and Tofutti sour cream. Let cool and thicken, serve with tortilla chips, Cholula hot sauce, and apple lime cider.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Dean Stanton's Natal Day Pasta

Harry Dean Stanton is 85 today! He's been in a million and a half films. I've seen only several of them, most recently Paris, Texas. Sort of ambivalent about it, but Ry Cooder's soundtrack is incredible. My girlfriend and I are listening to it right now.

Tonight's meal was prepared almost entirely by my girlfriend. She's better at pastas than I am. I boiled the pasta and cut the broccoli and patted myself on the back and danced to some old songs (rap and punk) I hadn't listened to in months or years.

makes approx. 3-4 servings

2/3 lb. penne pasta
2 crowns broccoli, florets
3 portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/3 package Yves vegan pepperoni, diced
1 handful sun-dried black olives, quartered
1 handful grape tomatoes, halved
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
handful Daiya mozzarella
dried basil
dried thyme [Update: My girlfriend would like to stress that absolutely no thyme was used in this recipe and thyme is not a proper Italian herb and she does not cook with thyme but with oregano.]
ground sea salt
ground black pepper
olive oil
Earth Balance spread
hot chili oil

1. Cook the pasta.
2. Sauté the broccoli in oil and Earth Balance over medium heat. After a few minutes, add the mushrooms. Then comes the pepperoni.
3. When the pasta's done, drain it. Pour more olive oil and Earth Balance in the pot and sauté the garlic, olives, and grape tomatoes. Season with oregano and basil (and red pepper flakes, if you've got them). Toss the penne back in and mix together.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Add the contents of the pan to the pot and cook over low heat for a while. Drizzle hot chili oil over everything, followed by some Daiya.

Again, this recipe has been brought to you by my girlfriend. The following photo of Harry Dean Stanton and companions is brought to you by Gawker.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Response to Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life

[Each paragraph in this piece is a pairing of a sentence from a 5-star critical review listed on Metacritic and a sentence from a 1-star user review in the comments section of the New York Times website.]

The Tree of Life is rooted in human nature but ascends to the infinite mystery. In an effort to be universal, there is nothing.

There is simply nothing like it out there. It’s a collection of bland didactic statements.

Malick doesn’t pretend to have actual answers. But then not one interesting question is posed by The Tree of Life.

Which is kind of transcendent, and kind of Zen, and kind of corny — and definitely something to think about. I am struck by the possibility that with this film Terrence Malick believes he has completed his doctoral dissertation in philosophy and will finally have earned his Ph.D.

That’s daring, mostly because it’s not how Michael Bay does it. Cut out 50% or so and it is a perfect IMAX film.

There were once several directors who yearned to make no less than a masterpiece, but now there are only a few. What would the reviews have been like if the name Malick wasn't attached to the movie?

A sense of reconciliation is Malick’s great accomplishment in The Tree of Life, affording us equal wonder at grace and nature alike. The audience here actually broke out in laughter when there was one too many “light from the heavens” sequences.

And it all happens in this blink of a lifetime, surrounded by the realms of unimaginable time and space. It has much in common with the old advertising campaign for Calvin Klein Obsession — lots of slow motion shots, gossamer fabrics blowing in the wind, and everyone speaking in whispers.

But there’s the throb of poetry in every frame — and, really, when was the last time you could say that at the multiplex? I spent a decent afternoon watching this movie, the whole time thinking is it too late for me to sneak into The Hangover 2.

But by that point it’s clear Malick, after five films over nearly 40 years, hasn’t given up his search for new ways of seeing truth and beauty — in life, or in cinema. It must be deep or there wouldn’t have been classical music in it.

And yet, we’ve shared in something divine. Drivel.

It’s hard to watch, but the pure emotion resonates deeply. Professional wrestling is more entertaining.

Yet The Tree Of Life isn’t despairing about it in the least; it’s a genuine attempt to grasp the transcendent, and the rare religious film that deserves to be called spiritual. Have you ever been seated next to a pompous windbag at a seven-course dinner party?

I suspect, though, that sometime between now and Judgment Day it will all make sense. Please don’t pretend that you found it deep and meaningful and that it effectively made sense.

Still, there is little doubt that The Tree of Life will stand as the cinematic achievement of the year. Worst movie ever made.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Anxiety of Quesadillas


Harold Bloom was born 81 years ago and he's still at it. He's best known as a literary critic. I'm only familiar with his essay, "The Anxiety of Influence." I wonder if he's anxious at all about his own influence, or just about the pernicious trap of poetic influence. Strangely (and wryly), the "Influence" section of Bloom's Wikipedia page is a long list of declarations Bloom has made about who the best living writers are. Taste: the weakest kind of criticism.

Except when it comes to food! This quesadilla tasted good, which makes it a good quesadilla. This quesadilla is not plagued by the givenness of its form or the inescapability of its culinary lineage.

makes 2

2 large tortillas
1 package Daiya pepper jack
1 package Daiya mozzarella
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 jalapenos, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 c. chopped green onion
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 white mushrooms, sliced
ground sea salt

1. In a pan over medium heat, sauté the vegetables. Season with a little bit of salt and cumin. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Lightly coat the pan in oil and place a tortilla on it. Cover with pepper jack cheese, spread half of the vegetables on top, cover with mozzarella, and place the second tortilla on top.
3. After approx. 6-8 minutes, flip. If you do like we did and use a cast iron pan, put a plate face-down on the quesadilla. My girlfriend donned oven mitts and caught the plate as I rotated the pan. Cook the other side until browned.
4. Serve with salsa (in this case fresh store-bought), guacamole (homemade: I think my girlfriend used two avocados, a bunch of cilantro, lots of lime juice, and some salt), and vegan sour cream (Tofutti).

If you like reading my comic, here's the latest (acknowledgments: Donnie Darko). The editor of Tiny Mix Tapes sent me this link. How does anyone find anything on Twitter?

I wrote another very short story for Nanoism.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Air Jordan Breakfast in Bed

Haven't updated in a while because we've been eating out, receiving food from my girlfriend's wonderful grandparents, and cooking things I've already posted about (in this case, pizza). It was my 23rd birthday on July 8, and my beloved made me this beautiful-looking, pleasure-making tofu scramble for breakfast. Holy moly. Better than any tofu scramble I've cooked or ordered. Not sure what the magic ingredient was (love?), but the prosaic ingredients were tofu, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, portabello mushroom, grape tomatoes, Daiya mozzarella, cumin, cayenne, and sea salt. The toast even had Earth Balance spread on it!

Planned on having 5 pizzas for my party, but soon after pizza #1 went into the oven and the guests had arrived, the power in our apartment building went out. Until 6am. Candlelit dinner of chips more intimate than it sounds because of good company, a chocolate hazelnut apricot cake (courtesy of gf's grandma), coconut ice cream, and bourbon.

Will post about quesadillas tonight, perhaps. One other thing for now: last week I fried some leftover vegetables and put 'em over quinoa. The innovative move was mixing nutritional yeast and a little bit of piccante oil into the quinoa right after it's done simmering, while it's still moist and steaming.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Last of the Great Auks Miso Soup, Red Curry, and Salad

The Great Auk was a beautiful, penguin-like flightless bird. You can look at a wonderful illustration by John James Audubon here. (And then you should look up Walton Ford.) So why haven't you ever seen a real life auk? I quote Wikipedia:
The last colony of Great Auks lived on Geirfuglasker (the "Great Auk Rock") off Iceland. This islet was a volcanic rock surrounded by cliffs which made it inaccessible to humans, but in 1830 the islet submerged after a volcanic eruption, and the birds moved to the nearby island of Eldey, which was accessible from a single side. When the colony was initially discovered in 1835, nearly fifty birds were present. Museums, desiring the skins of the auk for preservation and display, quickly began collecting birds from the colony. The last pair, found incubating an egg, was killed there on 3 July 1844, with Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the adults and Ketill Ketilsson smashing the egg with his boot.
Oy. Vey. Strangulation less likely to damage the skins? More likely to damage the psyche. Extinction: first as tragedy, then again as tragedy. (Or is the farcical return the Apocalypse?) "The last pair, found incubating an egg..." puts meteors in my dreams. Worth considering is whether the modern policy of preserving species in captivity is substantively different than preserving a species in taxidermy. Considered worth a No.

I'm in Beautiful British Columbia now. Yesterday made food for girlfriend's family. A warming night in a place cooler than I'm used to this time of year. Gf made miso soup in the afternoon.

Fermented soy, tofu, mushrooms, green onion, spinach. Yumsies. She also made salad: lettuce and parsley with lemon vinegar dressing.

And now the curry recipe. Next time we'll use more cayenne, more basil, and more red pepper. And not slice the basil leaves.

makes approx. 7 servings

2 1/2 c. basmati rice
1 lb. tofu
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 handfuls little potatoes, cubed
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans light coconut milk
1 handful Thai basil, sliced
4 spoonfuls curry paste
curry powder
ground sea salt
ground black pepper

1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
2. In a large pot, sauté onion in oil over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, add garlic after several minutes. Add red pepper and tofu.
3. Boil the potatoes in water. Don't cook them too long, but as soon as they're tender transfer them with a slotted spoon to the pot. Boil the cauliflower for a few minutes.
4. Add the cauliflower to the pot, then pour in the coconut milk. Add the curry paste, basil, and seasonings. Lower the heat and reduce until desired consistency.

One more thing. A few days ago we went to Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, ME. I've been terrified of amusement park rides my whole life, ever since I went on Rocky Mountain Railroad at Disneyland as a young child and felt like I was going to die. My uncle convinced me to go on a proper roller coaster several years later, but it must have been equally traumatizing because I've repressed all memory of it between the initial ascent and stepping off onto firm ground. But my girlfriend's giddiness got me so excited I steeled myself and rode both the Galaxi and the Power Surge. And I loved it! I've never felt so relaxed and fuzzy as I did after being spun through the air with my feet dangling.