Archive for June, 2009

Food, Inc. The Movie

A good friend of mine who works in documentary film making in Los Angeles pointed me in the direction of a new film out about the truth behind the food industry. In it, the film looks into animal cruelty issues, including how animal wellfare is violated in search of producing faster growing, fatter animals. The film also tackles issues of local produce vs. import produce, branding, pricing, waste, over consumption, and capitalism in general. Below is the trailer in case anyone wants to have a sneak peak! Hopefully the film will come to Germany so I can see it in its entirety!

Food, Inc. The Movie Official Site

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Get to Know Your Spices


[a picture of asafoetida]

First of all, why bother buying herbs or spices?
I used to look at spices, particularly fresh herbs as an unnecessary expense. Now I realize by just picking up a jar of spices or a bundle of herbs when I go to the store, be it basil or parsley, I can spice up an otherwise boring dish or turn a regular ol’ vegetable into a meal unto itself.

Fresh or Jarred?
There is a definite difference here both in taste and longevity. The taste of fresh herbs is undoubtedly more distinct and therefor usually better. However, sometimes you don’t want the actual plant interfering with the texture of whatever you’re making and you want a spice. Spices in jars don’t ever go bad, but they do lose their punch after about a year (this is only for herb spices, spices that are ground like pepper last a couple years more). Whereas fresh herbs go bad within days or weeks depending on how moist you keep them (when they’ve dried out or wilted, it’s time to chuck ’em). You can keep your fresh herbs stay fresh by putting the ends in a cup filled with water, then placing a plastic bag over the top and putting them in the fridge. If you find yourself preferring fresh herbs, but hating the hassle of going back to the store to buy new ones, try keeping a couple plants on your window sill or growing your own herb garden.

The Basics
Spices that are typically useful in the vegetarian kitchen include basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary (okay okay and salt and pepper). You can throw these bad boys just about on any vegetable, and even some fruits like tomatoes and cucumbers (still both technically fruits due to the whole seed thing) without having to worry much about ruining your meal. These also go well on pasta and with couscous, beans, or bulgar!

Mysterious Spices
That said, there are a lot of spices I haven’t tried, but am eager to. But first, I’d probably want to know what they taste like and how to use them! Not to worry, apparently there’s a whole database on the subject online at the Encyclopedia of Spices. Curious to know what sumac is? How about cardamom? Or asafoetida? Check them out below: Encyclopedia of Spices

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VegCooking


I just discovered the wonderful PETA-approved cooking site Vegcooking! There are a plethora of tasty vegan recipes, many of which use common (or relatively easy to find) ingredients. Best of all, you can search by the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), type of cuisine, or type of food). Surprisingly enough (or not surprising considering the author’s deep south upbringing) many of the recipes are Creole! Below are some of the recipes that really caught my eye. Aside from the Kung Pao Tofu, these probably aren’t the easiest to make and have far too many ingredients to actually post them here in Easy Greens, but they’re certainly worth a look if you’re looking to do something extraordinary!

Kung Pao Tofu
Louisianna Gumbo
Jambalaya
Cajun-style Collard Greens
Pate en Croute

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Easy Vegetarian Spaghetti Caprese


Easiness: **
Greenness: lacto-ovo (leave out the cheese and substitute with lemon marinated tofu for a vegan alternative)

Cook’s Notes: This recipe is really simply but depends on using fresh, quality ingredients. So get to your local farmer’s market and get crackin’!

Ingredients:
One serving of spaghetti, cooked (about 200 grams)
One lump of buffalo mozzarella (this is the fresh kind you get in a ball)
Cherry tomatoes or ripe (in their prime!) other kind of tomato
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
Fresh Basil (a bundle or just the leaves) chopped
1 tsp white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
oregano to taste (optional)

Directions:
1. Wash the tomatoes. Cut them apart and remove the seeds and core (or “the pulpy bit”). Dice them.
2. Mince the garlic. Combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice from 1/2 of the lemon, garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss the tomatoes in the lemon juice mixture and set in the fridge to marinate while the pasta cooks.
4. Chop the mozzarella into bite size pieces.
4. Cook and drain the spaghetti.
5. Mix the drained spaghetti in with the chopped basil leaves. They should get a little wilty. Add the tomato mixture and then the mozzarella and toss gently.
6. Devour.

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Vegetarian Bibimbap


Easiness: ****
Greenness: lacto-ovo (can be made vegan w/out egg)

Cook’s notes: This direction may SOUND complicated as it involves a lot of cooking items separately and a lot of ingredients. In reality, the more ingredients you have the better, but you can get by with just the big ones: rice, spinach, carrot, bean sprouts, and mushrooms. You should definitely make the effort to try and find the paprika paste as this is a great item to have in your kitchen and really makes or breaks this dish. As for cooking the items separately, you can do it all in one pan if you’ve got a big frying pan. Honestly the effort is worth it as this was one of my favorite dishes when I lived in S. Korea, and remains one of the best today!

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked rice per bowl
2 handfuls bean sprouts
10 mushrooms (shitake or button)
1 cup cooked seaweed
1 carrot
1 bundle spinach
2 tbsp sesame oil
soy sauce to taste
paprika to taste
white or rice vinegar to taste
Korean Paprika Paste
kimchi (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)
1 egg (optional)
Cooked and marinated tofu (optional)

Directions:
1. Cook and prepare the mushrooms in a tsp of sesame oil, tossed with sesame seeds and a few drops of soy sauce.
2. Meanwhile, slice the carrot into small slivers about 2″ long as seen in photo. Toss these with a little vinegar and store in fridge to keep cool.
3. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.
4. Cook the beansprouts in a little paprika and sesame oil to give them a little kick.
5. Separately, cook the spinach in a little sesame oil and sesame seeds.
6. Now comes the easy part! Spread some rice to fill 1/2 of the bowl. On top of the rice arrange small portions of the cooked and refrigerated ingredients as illustrated in the picture.
7. Fry an egg and throw it on top or use kimchi OR tofu. Mix with a little paprika paste if you managed to find it and mash until all the ingredients are combined together and you have a delightful selection of tastes! Eat with a spoon as trying to use chopsticks would be foolish.

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Spicy Bean Hotpot


Easiness: ***
Greenness: vegan

Ingredients:
1 tbsp cooking oil
a pinch of cumin (or more)
a pinch chili powder or paprika
2 cloves garlic
cilantro (can be omitted)
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium red onion (can be omitted)
1 can chopped tomatoes in juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 can red kidney beans*
1 can white kidney beans*
1 can pinto beans*
(*you can use just one can of either of these if you are only making a small batch)
Salt n’ pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Dice the garlic, chop the onions, and open your cans of beans n’ tomatoes.
2. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or pot on medium. When warm, throw in the garlic and onions. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder until they look about your level of deadly. Toss w/ spices until the onions are almost translucent but not limp.
3. Chuck in the kidney beans, can of tomatoes, and tbsp of tomato paste. Put the lid on ‘er and reduce heat to low. Let the beans etc. slow cook for about 20 min. or so until they are tender. You may have to try a couple spoon fulls to see if you need to add more spices or cook longer.
4. Remove from heat and serve a) by itself, sprinkled with cilantro leaves b) over white rice c) in a tortilla with or without beans and cheese d) with chips!

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Easy Vegetable Tempura


Easiness ***
Greenness lacto-ovo

Tempura seems like it’d be very difficult to make but it’s really not! Most of the time you’ll actually spend in the kitchen will be for the clean up as the battering and frying motion can get a little messy. Still, tempura is a great way to use up whatever spare veggies you have in the fridge that you don’t know what to do with. The downside is you gotta eat it the same day because tempura is best when eaten fresh!

Any of the following can be used to make tempura. Choose one or two, or more!:
Shitake Mushrooms
Sweet potato
Potato
Winter squash
String green beans
Green peppers
Bell Peppers of any color
Button mushrooms
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Yam
Pumpkin
Zucchini
Asparagus
Lotus
Portabella Mushroom

TEMPURA BATTER (You can also buy pre-mixed tempura powder batter at most supermarkets):

1 egg
1 1/4 c. iced water
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
Oil for deep frying

TEMPURA DIPPING SAUCE (You can also buy tempura dipping sauce in some supermarkets):

1 3/4 c. dashi stock (fish bouillon)
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. mirin
Sugar (1 to 3 tbsp.) to taste

1. Cut shitakes mushrooms into halves. Slice sweet potato into thin rounds, squash into quarter rounds, green beans into halves, green peppers into strips.

2. In chilled bowl, mix egg and iced water. Add flour to egg mixture. Fold loosely to keep batter lumpy.

3. Lay out a rack with a bunch of paper towels on it. Heat oil in wok or deep fryer to 340 degrees (you can also use a deep frying pan and a set of tongs). Pat dry all ingredients with paper towel. Dip vegetables in batter. (Be VERY careful with this step. If you are not an experienced cook, please have someone around to help keep an eye on things!) Deep fry until golden (the batter will appear puffy and crisp). Remove using tongs and drain vegetables briefly on paper towel covered rack or tray. Make sure they are cool before serving. 10-15 minutes is usually good.

4. Serve with dipping sauce and rice.

Modified from a recipe at Cooks.com http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1726,149168-251192,00.html>

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