monster vs. monster

on a food roll
July 19, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: food | Tags: , ,

I feel a little food spoiled. Drawing from someone else’s fully-stocked pantry with every ingredient at my fingertips, spending entire afternoons simmering grains and kneading doughs, warming the apartment with a preheated oven on foggy mornings. It’s a little bit ridiculous, how good I have it. I remember thinking so many times during the school year how I just wanted to spend a single day cooking and knitting and reading Sedgwick. Just one day. And now I have a whole string of days to do just that. My appetite has been on seriously high gear the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been pawing through BW’s cookbook collection looking for ways to entertain my tummy. Right now I’ve got some rice on the stove and some gluten sausage roasting in the oven, so my hands are free to share with you the super successful seitan I made a few days ago.

The seitan recipe I used calls for 7 cups broth, 1 cup gluten flour, 2 tbsp Braggs, and 2 tsp seasonings, which I divided evenly between sage, oregano, pepper, and a fancy “pasta” spice which was really just basil, oregano, garlic and thyme. After blending 3/4 c broth, flour, and spices together I kneaded the dough for 15 minutes, let it rest for 5, then kneaded again for 5. This is really the trick to getting a perfect consistency. In the past, my seitan has come out rubbery and squishy, with too much air trapped inside. With the extra kneading, I got a firm, solid texture – and a full arm workout.

I also added some onion slices to the broth, which I think really helped to round out the seasonings.

With half of the seitan and most of the broth, BW made chicken and dumplings which was in-effing-credibly de-effing-licious. I was a very unadventurous eater in my pre-vegan days, and chicken and dumplings is one of the many dishes I never encountered in its more, shall we say, traditional form. But now that I’ve experienced this hearty, doughy, salty comfort food (and seen how easy it is to make!) I will be adding this to my winter food repertoire. Mmmm.

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Oddly enough, cooking sucks the appetite right out of me. Generally what I’ll do is cook a meal and immediately package it up and set it in the fridge. Then I’ll wash the dishes, tidy up the stove, go and check my email, maybe pour myself a glass of wine. And then I’ll eat. I don’t know whether I act this way because I prefer cold food or prefer cold food because I act this way. Suffice to say, it’s strange, and to most people it makes no sense. What it does mean, though, is that I can do a lot of weird disparate cooking and baking all at once, since I’m going to set it all aside anyway. Tomorrow I’m going to try to bust out some cinnamon swirl bread, lemon cranberry muffins, summer squash soup, and grits with greens. Oh, and maybe I’ll work on my translation project. Maybe.


soup love
July 14, 2010, 6:01 pm
Filed under: food | Tags: , , ,

After climbing a mountain this morning, I did not expect to spend three hours of my day in the kitchen chopping peppers and onions, sniffling, and listening to folk music. But that’s what I did, and it was awesome. The fruits of my labor? Corn Potato Poblano Soup with Black Bean Quinoa Salad. Made from scratch, with farmer’s market veggies, by my own two hands. An avocado would have tied the two dishes together perfectly, but alas, we were out. I don’t care. I am still a domestic goddess.

The other day at Issues I picked up a copy of Souplove by Oaklander Rebecca Stevens (illustrations by Nabil Samadani). This incredible, simple, self-published little book provides 3 soup recipes for each season: one smooth and easy, one brothy and veggie-filled, and one bean- or grain-based. The recipes are all vegan and beginner -friendly, and ingredients can all be acquired at the farmer’s market. I love the idea behind this book. I prefer to shop local and seasonal, but I tend to fall rapidly into food ruts, and by the end of the season I am desperate for imported fruit and weird new veggies. I think this recipe book will help: I don’t have to do any mental work since Stevens matches soups to seasons, I can totally handle one new recipe a month, and I can start working with unfamiliar ingredients without feeling stumped. Fennel, I’m looking at you.

I decided on the brothy summer selection, since I have been itching to get my hands onto peppers and I’ve never worked with poblano (or, for that matter, corn cobs) before. Shaving the corn was a very empowering experience; if you’ve ever seen me wield a knife, you will know that it was also pretty terrifying and death-defying and I am grateful no one else was in the room. The two best parts of this soup, for me, were first that it uses very few spices (oregano, salt, a pinch of cayenne) which means it’s low on the confusion scale, and second that it uses a half cup of white wine, which means that you have almost a full bottle leftover to take to the park in the afternoon. If you’re into that.

The recipe tells you to roast the pepper over an open flame until it is blackened and blistered. I gotta say, I held back. I’m cooking in someone else’s house, and I already live in fear of the fire gene bequeathed to me by my maternal relatives. So we have fear of fire, plus fear of fire in someone else’s kitchen, someone who has been kind enough to offer his futon for a full month. Hesitance is necessitated, I think. I still got plenty of poblano flavor, but the skin didn’t come off as easily as it otherwise would have. Oh well, it came off in the end, no skin off my nose. Next time, though, I’m going to throw that puppy straight into the flame. Bangs be damned – or singed, as the case may be.

All told, to my surprise and delight, my first soup ever was a total success. The flavors blended, the potatoes got all buttery and mushy, and I didn’t even burn my fingers until I chopped a chipotle for my quinoa. Also, despite its brothiness (and I still can’t believe I made stock out of corn cobs!), this soup is super filling. Rebecca Stevens, you are a recipe-writing genius. I’ll be trying the other two summer soups, Tomato Fennel and Summer Squash Dill, before I leave Oakland. By which I mean, before I have to leave BW’s fully stocked pantry and spice cabinet behind.

July 5, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: round up | Tags: , ,

You guys, I can’t document my summer vacation. I tried. I know when I get back to Providence people are going to ask me what I did this summer, and since I have no epic adventures or marathon challenges in the mix, it’s going to be a difficult question to answer. I thought if I wrote down all my summer stories in weekly recaps, I’d be able to fully represent my west coast summer in all its awesome sunshiney glory. But I have failed. There is too much. There has been family time and old friend time and wedding time and lots and lots of dancing. There have been fairs and art openings and shows in busses, vegan fast food and red pepper ice cream. There has also been an unbelievable stroke of I can’t even say it out loud that featured picnics and wine in coffee mugs and music and movies and curbs and bubbles. Oh, there has been knitting, too.

Luckily, I think my last five weeks will give me lots to report. There will be shows, including au revoir simone / social studies, peter and the wolf / the shivers / kelli scarr, and phosphorescent / j. tillman, which are all very quietly exciting. There will also be time for a renegade craft fair (now with vegan food!), several bouts of kickball, some street cinema, some cult induction, and yarn visitation of all kinds. And, like always, there will be girls nights, farmer’s markets, books and coffee, beer and barefootness. And if I never get a chance to write it all down for you, well, maybe it’s for the best, because how do you leave a summer like this behind?

venice beach
June 17, 2010, 11:31 pm
Filed under: nice day | Tags:

i’m no longer able to keep track of days, weeks, thoughts, activities, or photos. but i do know we went to venice today. from the amount of time i’ve spent dancing, drinking, and driving around l.a. in the past week, you’d never know how much i hate lost angeles!

when i was in high school, my friends instilled within me an intense fear of the 1 freeway. now that i’ve finally experienced it for myself, i can tell you all that the picturesqueness vastly outweighs the death-defyingness.

i’m suddenly very into watching skateboarding. i don’t know any of the terminology and i’ll never be able to do it for myself, but damn, i could’ve stood there for an hour watching dudes fall down.

venice beach features a teeny tiny graffiti area (including graffiti on the ground, which i dubbed grafeeti).

there are also incredibly artistic, awe-inspiring sculptures.

and rollerbladers! i only caught the back of electric-guitar-playing purple-turban-wearing rollerblade guy. my cousin tells me he is famous. famous in my heart, maybe.

there are also wolf-covered condos, fern roses, angry castle-building men, and sand sculptures not on the sand. whoa, bro.

we were losing steam toward the end of the day, so no bikini paddle-renting for us. just a quiet trip past eighteen million palm trees.

and the best end to any california day trip, falling asleep in the backseat to this soothing image:

ahh, home.

how i spent my summer vacation (week two)
June 8, 2010, 5:59 pm
Filed under: nice day, photo | Tags: ,

a few days back in oakland and i’m already in love again. i drove up to see why? with bw at the new parish, a new-to-me venue that was super awesome except for the fact that they leave the patio doors open and we came home reeking of cigarettes. the show was fantastic, with lots of singalongs. if you can make it to see themselves on thursday you should go. i was originally planning to stay for twelve hours, afraid that if i didn’t leave immediately i would never muster up the strength to make it back to my family in southern california, but tragedy struck and i stayed a bit longer so that i could say goodbye. in the meantime there were drinks at park ave and the grand tavern, karaoke at cato’s, front yard bbqs and a game of kickball, street parties, vegan dinners, and friendsfriendsfriends. unfortunately i took pictures of nothing but art murmur, so art murmur is what you get for this week. i went by myself (a VERY new thing for me) and ran into people i knew, met bands, chatted with strangers, and had a generally phenomenal time. i’m hoping to be back for the next one, on 7/2. i am also looking for something fantastic to do on the fourth of july…but one plan at a time is the most i can currently hold in my head.

art murmur has music, food, and, of course, art, but most important at art murmur is the awesome shit. for example, a sewing machine powered by bicycle.

other, more creative, awesome shit includes button making with church of craft (and why the hell do we not have a providence branch of c.o.c.? can we please make that happen?) and a game of “abstract chess” that seemed to basically amount to a competition between line drawings. but i have never understood chess, so don’t take my word.

these girls, waste band, played folk music next to a taco truck. they were very sweet. also, their web address is, which makes me laugh. this drumline morphed throughout the evening into drum circle and, at one point, acapella chorus. i’m pretty sure.

a noise band, primary colors, was playing in the front window of mama buzz, and the lead singer rolled around in black paint the ENTIRE TIME. they were, surprisingly, pretty great, and they had some devoted dancers. the one man band did not smile the entire time i watched him. he seemed pretty unsure about life.

there is also, of course, ART at art murmur, but most of it is…well…you know.

people usually cap off art murmur with the burlesque show at stork club, and spread out along that block were vegan ice cream sandwiches and bacon s’mores, literally side by side. i don’t think you can find this juxtaposition anywhere else – or at least, not in such peaceful conjunction. oakland is the best place ever.

this week also featured babysitting and cat-proximity and oh, how desperately i want my own little vulnerable things to chase around and cuddle with and take care of. preferably ones that don’t scream at me when they wake up from their afternoon naps.

how i spent my summer vacation (week one)
June 3, 2010, 4:05 am
Filed under: nice day, round up | Tags: , ,

greetings from california! i stepped off the plane missing providence something fierce, but i think i’ve made up for my non-home sickness by having a fantastic first week of the summer. i spent a few days with my mom in riverside, and man, there is some crazy stuff in southern california! mostly my days consisted of riding around on the freeway pointing at strange billboard signs and shouting “whaaaat?” over and over. relatedly, i would like you all to know that jazzercise is alive and well in the inland empire.

i do have some photographic highlights that i caught amid trips to line dance, hike, and watch shakespeare plays, like this EPIC MASTODON (or wooly mammoth?) STATUE which, as far as i can see, has no reason to exist aside from being awesome. i found the masto/mmoth statue to be strong and assertive while still quietly graceful, especially silhouetted against the setting sun. it completely captivated me. i seriously made extra trips up and down the freeway to gawk at it, and its visual appeal was rivaled only by the biggest scandia amusement park i’ve ever seen.

for our romeo&juliet and hamlet outings we parked next to the redlands mall, which seemed oh so very excited to proclaim itself.

and we sauntered, several times, past these two very serious dudes, whose names i couldn’t quite make out. shortly after taking this picture, i was attacked by a sprinkler system. the two dudes maintained their very serious faces.

luckily, once we got to the shakespeare locale, there were many optimists about, to cheer my sodden spirit.

unluckily, the plays were a little heavily acted (and more or less mourning-free!). ah, well. it’s community shakespeare. they have the noble goal of working through all 37 plays before they repeat one. unwise, but noble.

our monday morning hike up mt. rubidoux was definitely a highlight, though it felt less like hiking and more like walking uphill on a paved road. downside: no rustic payoff. upside: less fear of snake attacks.

oh, and cacti. lots of cacti. i love seeing what plants actually choose to grow down south.

there is a cross at the top of the ‘mountain’…

as well as this little tower (called “peace tower”) and a bridge to nowhere. the tower has nothing in it, but the windows are barred. the bridge has only one way to get up/down, and i’m not sure why it needs to cross the path, nor why it leads to an empty barred-up tower. still, it was nice to look at. unless you looked down, like i did, and see an old half-eaten pop tart laying on the side of the steps. thank you, hikers.

mostly, other than complaining about people eating plastic food and dropping trash wherever they may, i spent riverside-time hanging out with this cat, getting started with my summer reading, searching for the perfect wedding-guest-dress, and knitting the ugliest scarf EVER. when i get back in a few days i’ll add to that list some cooking, some clog dancing, some pillow-seaming and some sweater-knitting.

on a whim i drove up the coast monday night to see watercolor paintings and good luck at the biko coop in santa barbara. it was my first time ever going to a show alone, and i was incredibly nervous at the start, but once i showed up and started meeting band members and munching on free bananas, it all felt right as rain. good luck was AMAZING and i danced my face off. watercolor paintings surprised me by being quiet and heartfelt and lovely, and we all sat on the floor and lots of people sang along. i took no pictures, since the space was so small and i felt a little, i don’t know, obsessive, but i picked up a w.p. cd and have been listening to it nonstop. i highly recommend them.

i left town the next day, and on my way out of ventura i saw this paper mache llama in my old neighbor’s yard. a fitting departure, i think. i’m in oakland now, and there is much to look forward to. tonight is why? at the new parish downtown. tomorrow will be drinks with the bestgirlsever, friday we have art murmur, and sunday the always enjoyable temescal street fair as well as the second annual issues birthday party! it’s like i never left.