Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm in Love with a (Vegan) Stripper

Some strippers might feel like their customers think of them as nothing more than a piece of meat. Well, the strippers at Casa Diablo in Portland, Oregon don’t have that problem.

That’s because Casa Diablo is the very first vegan strip club in the world. A sign over the bar reads, “Please do not wear fur, feathers, silk, wool, or leather on the stage. Thank you – the animals.” Its awesomely named owner, Johnny Diablo, has been an “ethical vegan” for 23 years.

Jasmin Malik of Treehugger wrote a light-hearted post about Casa Diablo back in February, but it’s also gotten a lot of negative attention from people who think strip clubs are demeaning. They find it ironic that vegans, who care so much about animal welfare, could have so little respect for women.

As usual, the prudish refined journalists of the United Kingdom put a damper on the sexy news. On Tuesday, Julie Bindel of The Guardian said, “In Casa Diablo, non-human animals are afforded more respect than the strippers.” Clearly, Bindel believes the atrocities of strip clubs would be better accompanied by the atrocities that pass for food in the UK.

It’s obvious how Bindel feels about strip clubs. I, on the other hand, don’t really mind them. I’ve never been inside one, but it’s not because of any moral issue – I’m just too poor to afford all those tips (and I can’t dance).

I think it’s great that vegan strippers – and vegans who love strippers – finally have a place where they can fit in. But even if you think strip clubs represent the basest part of our society, isn’t a vegan strip club still better than a regular old strip club?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Eating Rules "October Unprocessed" Challenge

Generally, I hate rules. Stay off the green, lush-looking grass? Can’t do it. No outside food or drinks in the movie theater? Um… no. I’m the lady sneaking in a bag of popped microwave popcorn under my coat and pretending to be pregnant with a lumpy baby if anyone gets suspicious.

But as I’ve gotten older, it has come to my attention that some rules have a purpose (and I am not talking about No Singing at the Table, my parents’ favorite rule to enforce when I was growing up. That was the worst rule ever).

No shoes inside the yoga studio? Fine. Nobody wants to find themselves in downward-facing-dog facing dog poop from your sneakers. No eating animal products? Well, duh.

So when my friend Paul sent me a link to the Eating Rules October Unprocessed Challenge, I was enticed. Andrew Wilder, the guy behind Eating Rules, wants to get as many people as possible to pledge to eat only unprocessed foods for the month of October.

Andrew gets that some people (like me) don’t do so well with rules. So if the most you can commit to is a week, or even a day, no problem. Do what you can. That’s my kind of attitude. Here’s the Eating Rules definition of “unprocessed:”
Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.
I read this definition and realized that since I am certainly not a person of “reasonable skill,” I’d have to develop a Reasonably Skilled Alter-Ego to consult about my ingredient choices.

My Reasonably Skilled Alter-Ego would be tall, graceful, and soft-spoken, and her kitchen would be stocked with all kinds of helpful tools and appliances. She wouldn’t be afraid of the blender or intimidated by Indian spices. And she would always be around to take over when I got discouraged.

So I pledged! Not only did I pledge, I’ll be writing a guest post at some point this month. At first I was confused when Andrew told me I’d be the only vegan writing about the challenge. But once I thought about it, it made sense. Lots of my staple vegan substitutes are processed, and cutting them out is going to be a real struggle.

I went through my kitchen this morning to identify the foods I’m going to have to binge on for the next two days avoid next month:

Oroweat bread
Earth Balance spread
Almond Breeze almond milk
Trader Joe’s pita chips
Trader Joe’s hummus dip
CLIF bars

Yes, CLIF bars. The biggest challenge of all. Since I became a vegan, CLIF bars have been my go-to snack to avoid starvation when I find myself on campus in a vegan desert of fast food chains. But for all their convenience, they are processed, and thus on the no-eat list for October.

I’m going to hit up the Isla Vista Coop today to investigate possibilities for unprocessed almond milk (but my Reasonably Skilled Alter-Ego might have to make some in the food processor for me).

If you want to pledge, too (and I hope you do!), visit Eating Rules here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Russian Raclette

On Saturday afternoon, I came home to find Erin and her boyfriend, Tyler, furiously chopping vegetables in the kitchen. We were all going to see Tower of Power perform later that night, so obviously I wanted to get in on their dinner plans (especially since my dinner plans had involved peanut butter toast and... nothing else).

They explained that they were going to make "raclette" for dinner. I had no idea what that meant, so I decided to go buy a bottle of wine.

When I got back, they took a break from vegetable chopping long enough to explain to me what this dinner would entail. Apparently, raclette is a Swiss/French dish usually centering on a kind of semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese of the same name.

But Erin and Tyler weren’t able to find the special raclette cheese (I guess the Ralph’s nearby isn’t fancy enough to carry it), so they had to settle for Fontina. Obviously, that didn’t matter to me, since I was rocking melted Daiya mozzarella-style shreds anyway.

The raclette set includes a platform that heats up (you grill the vegetables on it), and little dishes with handles for slices of baguette (you slide them under the platform to toast).

The grill spins, so if you're unlucky enough to get the heel of the baguette, you can always spin the grill around and steal someone else’s. Or if you see someone grilling a piece of delicious-looking garlic that you want for yourself, you can give the raclette a spin and snag it.

It’s like Russian roulette, but with vegetables instead of bullets.

The whole experience is really fun and social. You pick out the vegetables you want to grill and when they’re ready, you slide out your (now toasted) baguette and pile them all on top to eat. Here's Erin in her adorable apron, tossing some mushrooms on the grill:

My parents told me they used to own a raclette set when they were young(er) and hip(pies). Unfortunately, Erin’s raclette set belongs to her parents, and she has to give it back.

But I guess it’s for the best. I survived Russian raclette once, but I wouldn't want to push my luck.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Horchata Hubris

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Lauren sent me a link to the New York Times’ Essential Summer Dishes. She pointed out that a lot of the recipes were vegan (or easily veganized by omitting cheese or substituting a sauce or something).

I wasn’t feeling inspired to go through the veganization process, so I went with one of the already-vegan recipes: the hemp horchata, submitted by Coco Harris of the fabulous blog Opera Girl Cooks:
Coco happens to be a friend of a friend (that friend being Sasha, with whom I recently baked my first date pie), and I’d tried and enjoyed her recipes before.

Horchata is a chilled Mexican drink, usually made with rice. Well, this hippie version is made with hemp instead. I’d never purchased or ingested hemp before; my only interactions with it had involved braiding or otherwise twisting it into necklaces during summer camp as a preteen.

But apparently, you can eat hemp. I bought hulled hemp seeds at the Isla Vista Coop and, ignoring their rancid pungent smell, got to work on my horchata.

But in my endeavor to recreate this hemp horchata, I encountered two problems: first, I didn’t have an immersion blender. Or any blender, for that matter. All I had was a food processor, so that would have to do.

My second problem was of the epic/tragic variety: hubris. In case you weren't a Classics major, hubris means over-weening pride, and it’s always the fatal flaw of protagonists who otherwise have pretty much everything working in their favor. Basically, these characters start dominating in life, get too arrogant, and then everything hits the fan.

Well, in the tragic episode that was my attempt at getting creative with this horchata, hubris was my downfall. “I am a creative cook!” I thought to myself. “I will add coconut shreds to this recipe and it will turn out great because things have really been going my way lately.”

So here’s what I threw into the food processor:

½ cup hulled hemp seeds
2 cups water
2 tbsp agave nectar
¼ tsp vanilla
dash cinnamon
and… ½ cup shredded coconut

After it was all food-processed up, I put it in a plastic container and stored it in the fridge until my friends came over. Then I could share my horchata with them and show off how creative I had been.

So when Shannon and Katie visited last night to celebrate my roommate Erin’s birthday, I pulled the hemp horchata out of the fridge and examined it. The agave nectar had sunk to the bottom and the whole thing looked like… well, it looked like off-white, cloudy water with specks floating in it:

I mixed it up by shaking it, then poured one glass for us all to share because I was not delusional enough to think that each of us was going to be able to drink an entire glass of this stuff.

The thing is, it tasted good. The one problem was the hubris-inspired ingredient: those coconut shreds. They had not been pulverized by the food processor, so they got caught in our teeth as we drank. And the ones that did not get caught in our teeth gathered at the top of the glass like a pile of soggy toilet paper:

I had been thwarted by hubris! But unlike that of a hubristic literary protagonist, my life is not a tragedy. Given the evidence, I’m pretty sure it’s a comedy.

And that means I get to learn my lesson – don’t add coconut shreds to a perfectly good drink recipe! – and move on to make more mistakes. The story of my life.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Hard to Find a (Vegan) Friend

Over the past months, I’ve become involved with Go Vegan Santa Barbara. Its founder, Carrie LeBlanc, is an activist who manages to be convincing without being annoying to non-vegans. She uses to organize events for vegan-curious people and vegans who need vegan friends.

I fall into the latter category: I need some vegan friends. Despite many attempts to convince myself otherwise, I have to admit that Twitter followers don’t count as friends. And don't even get me started on Facebook "friends" (just because I clicked on "accept" when I was bored one afternoon, doesn't mean I want to be bombarded with your angst in the form of song-lyric status updates).

It’s not that I don’t love my non-vegan friends. We’re not dinosaurs, after all; omnivores and herbivores can totally play together without one party (um… the herbivore) getting eaten up by the other.

But it would be nice to have some people with whom I could prepare a meal or go out to eat without feeling like I’m limiting their options because I’m a vegan. We could just assume that whatever we prepared/ordered would be vegan and I wouldn’t have that lingering sense that I’m coming off as some combination of snobbish and unreasonable.

Obviously, making friends as a grown up is hard. But making vegan friends is pretty near impossible; I can’t just go around asking people first if they’re vegan and second if they want to be my friend. Unfortunately, there is no vegan equivalent of “gaydar,” as far as I know… “vegan-dar”? Lame.

So yesterday, I went to the Go Vegan SB Summer Salad Potluck event with the hope of meeting some non-annoying vegans to be friends with. It was hosted by Marq (who is obviously awesome because he spells his name with a Q) and his partner Tom (who, despite his less exciting name, is equally awesome).

I brought a rather uninspired quinoa salad with olive oil and every random vegetable I had in my refrigerator mixed in. It tasted good because the vegetables were fresh, but it looked pretty boring next to some of the really inventive dishes other people brought:

As it turns out, vegans love salad. Did I just blow your mind? Well, it’s true.

Luckily for me, all these salad-loving vegans were pretty friendly. I think if I keep attending these meet-ups, I might get some real friendships out of them – at the very least, I’ll get some more delicious food.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Man-made Risotto

I grew up watching my Italian grandmother and great-aunts slave away for hours in the kitchen while their husbands sat out in the living room and watched TV. Then after dinner, the women would clean up and wash all the dishes while their husbands went back to the living room and slept.

So when my friend Matteo – an Italian man – offered to cook me dinner, I was thrilled at the chance to vindicate my female relatives. I told him that my plan was to sit out in the living room and watch TV (well, watch Hulu on my computer) while he worked hard in the hot kitchen.

He became annoyed and told me that real Italians don’t live like that anymore; it’s just the old-school Italian-American families, like my mom’s, that keep the stereotype alive. I asked him if he would at least yell, “Mangia! Mangia!” at me when he was done. He rolled his eyes and didn’t justify my request with an answer.

I ended up not relaxing in the living room while he cooked. Instead, I hovered around him drinking wine, asking questions, taking pictures of what he was doing, and generally getting in the way. Here’s what he made for me:

Risotto ai Porri, Vegan-Style
(Risotto with Leeks, Vegan-Style)
Makes 6-8 servings

4 leeks
2 cups Village Harvest Organic Arborio (risotto)
4 tbsp Earth Balance
Vegetable broth (a lot)
A handful of Daiya mozzarella shreds

Silly Matteo had assumed that I would own some vegetable broth. Since I don’t own any useful ingredients, including vegetable broth, Matteo had to make the broth from scratch.

He boiled a whole pot of water and threw in the ends of the leeks, a zucchini (or as Matteo obviously called it, a single “zucchino”), an onion cut in half, and a handful of kale. We let it simmer for 20 minutes:

While the broth was broth-ifying, Matteo chopped the leeks into very thin slices. He put the Earth Balance into the middle of a big wok and poured the risotto and leeks on top of it in a pile:

Then he spooned a few ladles of broth on top and stirred it up with a wooden spoon over low-medium heat. The trick, I guess, is to never stop stirring. As soon as the risotto starts to get sticky and clumpy, you add another few ladles of the broth. After about a half hour, the risotto had expanded to its fullest potential.

We sprinkled some Daiya mozzarella shreds on top and ate it with what was left of the white wine. It was perfect. And the best part is that the leftovers tasted even better the next day, since the flavors had had some time to mingle with each other in the fridge.

This man-made risotto definitely beat any woman-made risotto I could have cooked up. But I’m glad I watched closely and took detailed notes because it tasted just as good as any buttery, cheesy version. And I doubt you could get vegan risotto it in Italy, so... Italian-Americans win.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Date Pie

Back when my sister and I thought we were badass enough to be raw foodists for two weeks, we went grocery shopping with raw recipes in mind. We wanted to make some kind of raw date concoction that required a blender, and since we only discovered that we were blender-less after having purchased a 2-pound container of dates, well, we had a lot of dates and nothing to use them for.

I’d had enough bad dates in my life to know that I didn’t want a whole tub of them hanging out in my cupboard, so I needed to find a way to take advantage of them all at once. The fruit, not men! Get your mind out of the gutter.

Anyway. The other night, I had a date with Sasha. I cooked her dinner – we ate on the floor because I still don’t have any chairs – and we indulged in strawberries and vegan chocolate while we drank red wine.

Then we decided to take it to the next level and get something baking in the oven. I found some ideas for a date pie online, but we had to alter the recipes slightly due to my general lack of ingredients. This first date experience was not off to a good start.

I’d never used dates in cooking before. In fact, I don’t think I’d had a date at all until I moved to California after college. I was a date virgin. And this was my first date pie.

Here’s what we used:

First Date Pie

The Moist Middle:
2 lbs. pitted dates
1 ¾ cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup agave syrup
2 tbsp. vanilla

The Crumbly Crust:
3 cups quick cook oatmeal
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups canola oil

We preheated the oven to 375 degrees. While things were heating up in there, we stirred the filling ingredients together in a big skillet and brought them to a boil. Then we reduced the heat to a simmer – we wanted to take things slow, after all – and stirred them up some more until they were smooth(ish):

Sasha, melting those dates like buttah
While Sasha dealt with the mushy dates, I prepared the crust mixture in a big bowl. As it turned out, we had a lot of dates. And a lot of crust.

It was too much pie for one pan. So we made two pies: one for the two of us to share and one for me to give to my landlady to get back on her good side after drunkenly falling into (and partially destroying) her rose bushes last weekend.

We packed a layer of the crust mixture into the bottom of each pan and plopped the hot dates down on top of it. Then we poured the rest of the crust on the top, patted it down evenly, and shoved the pies in the oven.

After 25 minutes of baking, the date pies were ready. The crust had turned golden brown and the whole cottage smelled delicious.

We waited about 10 minutes for our pie to cool and then dug in. It tasted so good, there was no time for awkward conversation. And frankly, that’s the best first date experience I’ve ever had.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Spiritland: Not a Haunted Amusement Park

As far as I know, there are three upscale-ish restaurants in Santa Barbara where vegans can find as many things to eat on the menu as everybody else. Of course there are a bunch of places that will happily make substitutions to non-vegan dishes, but only Adama, Sojourner Café, and Spiritland Bistro have little symbols on their menus denoting the many vegan options.

I think the name “Spiritland” is meant to imply that eating there helps get you in touch with your spirit, if that's what you're into. After all, their food is totally free of hormones, nitrates, genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and even artificial colors and flavors – and I can see how it would be difficult to get in touch with your spirit with all that nonsense in the way.

But for me, the name “Spiritland” conjures up the image of one of those tacky, over-priced amusement parks I used to beg my parents to take me to when I was in a particularly annoying mood as a child. There would be billboards announcing your approach to it on the highway – “Spiritland, 67 miles!” – and when you got there, it would be nothing but a haunted house and maybe a hayride in the middle of a deserted parking lot.

Disappointingly, Spiritland Bistro is not haunted. But it is about as far as you can get from a tacky amusement park. Its atmosphere is a comfortable blend of cozy and elegant and all of its dishes are made with local, usually organic ingredients.

The other night I walked over to Spiritland with Alex, a devastatingly attractive omnivore-nerd with no discomfort about vegan food because as he says, he will eat anything, vegan food included.

Our waitress wasn’t particularly spirited, and I definitely preferred her peaceful demeanor to the in-your-face approach of some other servers I’ve encountered. She recommended the Caribbean Sweet Potato Balls as an appetizer with a note of warning that, “they’re deep-fried, so they’re not that healthy…”

We were sold. There were four of them in a little pile and they were served with a coconut dipping sauce. They were difficult to eat because I kept wanting to stop and discuss how absolutely delicious they were.

The Greek Moussaka I ordered for dinner is up there in the top five things I’ve ever tasted. It’s made of layered eggplant, potatoes, ground soy and tomatoes, and it’s served in the most incredible sauce: a combination of marinara, balsamic reduction, and some kind of creamy mushroom concoction:

The hunk of moussaka was so huge that even with Alex’s help, I couldn’t finish it, so I got it wrapped up to go. And even though Spiritland isn’t home to any ghosts (as far as I know), I am haunted with regret (!) because I forgot the rest of the moussaka in my to-go box on the table.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I’ve Got No Beef with This Taco Salad

Obviously, I’ve got some beef with beef. But I got inspired when my eye landed on “Beef-less Ground Beef,” made of textured wheat and soy protein, in the fake meat section of Trader Joe’s. For some reason, the term “beef-less” made me smile.

I guess I want my life to be all around beef-less; that includes relationships and food. If you’ve got beef, I don’t want to eat it.

I desperately wanted to have a reason to purchase the beef-less ground beef. But the only thing I could think of to make with it was tacos or some kind of taco salad, and unfortunately, I had no fixings for tacos at home.

Luckily, I was in a grocery store. I ran around picking up what I needed and rushed right home to prepare a vegan taco salad for lunch. Here’s what I came up with:

Beef-less Taco Salad
(makes 4 servings – or 2, depending on how much you like taco salad)

1 package (12 oz) Beef-less Ground Beef from Trader Joe's
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup cooked brown rice
1 onion
½ cup Daiya vegan cheese
½ ear sweet corn
2 tbsp guacamole
2 tbsp mild salsa

The beef-less ground beef just had to be heated up, not cooked. That was lucky for me, since I’d have no idea how to cook ground beef correctly. I tossed it into the wok with the olive oil and an onion to slowly heat up, then added some leftover brown rice I had in the fridge.

I wanted there to be corn in my taco salad, but all I had were ears of it that I had purchased at the farmers’ market last week. I’d have to de-cob the corn. First, I microwaved the whole cob of corn in its husk for three minutes (this cooked the kernals inside). Then I cut the cob in half and used a knife to slice off the corn kernals.

That corn had beef with me. One kernal flew up and hit me directly in the eye. The rest ended up scattered across the kitchen counter and the floor. I scooped up what I could and tossed it in the wok with the fake beef and onions (hence the ½ ear sweet corn in the recipe… that’s about all that got in there).

When the fake beef, onion, and corn mixture was almost ready, I threw in some Daiya cheese and it melted pretty quickly over the whole mixture. The kitchen smelled great.

I arranged the taco salad mixture neatly between some mild salsa and guacamole to take this picture, then tossed it all together to eat:

I’m not sure exactly how the beef-less ground beef tasted since it was kind of overwhelmed by the Daiya cheese, guacamole, and salsa flavors. But its texture was realistic enough. The salad as a whole was delicious.

I had no beef with this taco salad at all. I figure beef-less ground beef is the first step toward completely de-beef-ifying my life. And since I made so much of it, feel free to come by and share it – that is, unless you have beef with me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekend in Review: Vegan Glory, Café Muse, Hedley's, and M Café

Happy Labor Day! I was singing in a wedding in Pasadena this past Saturday, so I spent the weekend with my friend Avery in LA. She’s a painfully attractive omnivore with an open mind, so we got to check out a bunch of vegan and vegan-friendly eateries in the West Hollywood and Hollywood areas.

Vegan Glory

When Avery suggested we eat dinner at Vegan Glory, I couldn’t decide whether its name implied a vegan deity or some kind of war victory for vegans. Either way, I was into it.

They serve mostly Thai food but the menu is huge and varied. It’s also wonderfully inexpensive. I got the tacos with “chicken” and the “freshy rolls” (thai spaghetti, soy chicken, lettuce, bean sprouts, and herbs, wrapped in rice paper and served with hoisin sauce) at our waitress’s recommendation.

If a head of lettuce and a fake chicken had a baby and it was still in an embryonic sac… and then I ate it… that would be a freshy roll:

The tacos were cold, which struck me as strange, but somehow it didn’t take away from their deliciousness. I guess cold fake meat is just nowhere near as gross as cold real meat.

Café Muse

For brunch on Saturday, we took advantage of a Groupon I had purchased a couple months ago for Café Muse, a mostly vegetarian place with an attached art gallery and a guitar and piano for patrons to use. I like the whole "muse" theme, but I was more inspired by my vegan banana pancakes with fake butter and real maple syrup (obviously). I expected the banana to come on the side, but it was, impressively, baked into the pancakes themselves:
Avery ordered a tuna melt with sweet potato fries and for some reason, the sweet potato fries took forever to come out. When they did arrive, they tasted great, but we were already done eating everything else. As an apology, our waiter brought out a free piece of vegan cheesecake:
I thought it was perfect; it was as close to real cheesecake as a vegan cheesecake can get. It definitely beats the cheesecake at Café Gratitude. Oh, Groupon. You never let me down.


When I got back to West Hollywood after the wedding I performed in, all Avery wanted to do was get drunk and go dancing. But I convinced her to take me to dinner first. We walked over to Hedley’s, a cozy, family-owned restaurant with a seasonal menu that rotates weekly.

The one downside to Hedley’s is that to get to the bathroom, you have to go outside and walk around the building. Avery and I were both wearing what we endearingly termed “hooker heels,” so after a few beers the dark walk to the bathroom was particularly treacherous.

Hedley’s is not strictly vegan but is definitely vegan-friendly, and our waiter was helpful and ridiculously patient with my questions. I ended up ordering the “burrito in a bowl” with black beans, brown rice, lettuce, guacamole, and tofu:
The tofu was grilled so evenly that I felt a bit ashamed of my own lack of tofu grilling skills. The best part about Hedley's besides the food was that even though it has a pretty swanky vibe, when the bill came I didn't want to kill myself. I paid the perfect amount for the perfect amount of perfectly grilled tofu.

M Café

We stumbled upon M Café (stumbled because we were still wearing those darned hooker heels) while pretending to shop at fancy stores in Beverly Hills today. I’d become exhausted from calculating in my head how financially inferior I was to our fellow shoppers (the ones whose shopping involved the key component of purchasing) and I needed something to eat.

M Café immediately appealed to me because it smelled like cucumbers inside. Beyond that, everything on their menu is vegan except for a few sushi rolls and fish salads. Our server, Chase, was friendly, informative, and had no qualms letting Avery try samples of every salad in their display case.

I decided to try the shiitake-avocado sushi rolls because I’d never had sushi with mushroom involved before. It worked:

Next to the salads, there was a display case full of vegan desserts. Chase told me his favorite was the strawberry shortcake, and I had really come to trust Chase’s opinion over the few minutes we’d known each other. So I ordered it and Avery helped me devour it. Avery said that from an omnivore’s perspective, this strawberry shortcake was just as good as any creamy/eggy alternative:

It was made with soy buttercream, “tofu whip” (almond, apple cider vinegar, maple sugar, beet sugar, canola oil, lemon juice, and tofu), and a bunch of obvious ingredients like strawberries.

It was a satisfying weekend of vegan dining out, and part of me wishes I lived in LA so I could check out vegan-friendly restaurants more often. But I'll have to settle for swearing to return to these restaurants when I’m visiting LA again. And this time I won’t wear hooker heels.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Houdini Zucchini

 Now you seem them... now you don't because they're in my tummy.

At the farmers market on Tuesday, I came across the most adorable zucchini. They weren’t long like most zucchini; they were short and stout. Little teapot zucchini.

Don’t be thrown by my use of the plural “zucchini.” In Italian, the singular is “zucchino” and changing the “o” to an “i” makes it plural. I’m a stickler for grammar, even in other languages, so much so that I once made a scene when I ordered “canoli” off a dessert menu and the waiter brought me only one canolo.

Okay, I never did that. But I totally would, if there were such a thing as a vegan canolo for me to order in the first place.

Anyway, I bought two zucchini from the farmers market in order to avoid the confusion. Look how cute they are together:

I decided to bake-stuff them both for linner (lunch+dinner; like brunch but in the afternoon). I’d never bake-stuffed anything before, so I was just making it up as I went along. Here’s what I ended up doing:

Bake-stuffed Zucchini (makes 2)

2 adorable round little zucchini
1 cup cooked brown rice
½ tomato, diced
½ onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Daiya cheese

While the oven pre-heated to 375, I cut off the tops of the zucchini and used a spoon to scoop out all the seeds, saving them to use in a stir fry another time. I tried to make the edges of the little zucchini bowls as uniformly thick as possible so they’d bake evenly.

Then I mixed the brown rice (I used basmati rice from Trader Joe’s), onion, and tomato together and spooned it into the empty zucchini bowls. I sprinkled Daiya cheese on top and drizzled olive oil over the whole thing.

I put the zucchini on some tin aluminum foil and baked them for 40 minutes. That turned out to be just the perfect amount of time; the zucchini baked all the way through and the Daiya cheese was a bit crispy on top. I think adding some seasonings to the rice mixture would have made them more flavorful, but they tasted good plain.
I decided to call them Houdini Zucchini because they disappeared immediately from my plate. Also because it rhymes.

The problem is, you can’t make just one Houdini Zucchini. That would be a singular Houdino Zucchino, and nobody would get the joke.