Monday, November 28, 2011

Restaurant Review: Fresheast in West Hollywood

After a wonderful visit full of dancing, spontaneous handstands, and persinnamon cookies, I had to drive my friend Victoria to the LAX airport so she could fly back to the east coast. Before saying goodbye, we decided to have lunch at Fresheast (which, despite its name, is in West Hollywood).

Not everything on the menu is vegan, but the many vegan options are marked with a little green leaf and almost anything can be easily veganized (and prepared with separate cookware). All the ingredients used at Fresheast are local and organic and no menu item includes refined sugars or transfats.

Beyond that, all the VerTerra plateware and utensils are - I kid you not - made of nothing more than fallen leaves and water; in fact, the entire building is constructed of recycled woods. If you show up on a bike or in a hybrid car, or if you bring your own container or cup, you get a 10% discount.

There are so many good, green things about this restaurant that my head almost exploded into a million little sustainable pieces (which the folks at Fresheast totally would have repurposed into table settings or something).

Executive chef Jonathan Schwichtenberg does not, as his name might suggest, prepare only meals involving schnitzel and bratwurst. Rather, the whole menu is inspired by Korean, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Indian food. It’s relatively affordable, too: the most expensive item on the menu is $13.95.

And now, full disclosure: Fresheast’s public relations representatives contacted me about trying this restaurant, and my meal there was on them. But I have hated free food in the past (hello, spicy tofu samples at the mall), so I wasn’t about to let the fact that this meal was free sway my assessment of it.


Victoria and I each ordered a juice to go with our meal – after my overwhelming experience cleaning my own juicer last week, I was totally down to let someone else handle all that for me. I went with the Fresheast Juice (orange, lemon, apple, cucumber, spinach, kale, and red beets), which tasted like a refreshing wake-up punch in the side of the face:

We enjoyed a family-style feast of the following dishes:

Spicy garlic noodles

Tiger tofu
Avocado rolls
Palak paneer with tofu instead of paneer cheese
The spicy garlic noodles were, of course, too spicy for me to handle. I gave them a taste and then had to chug about a quarter of my juice to get the horror out of my mouth. But everyone else seemed to enjoy them.

The tiger tofu, on the other hand, was delightful. The menu describes the "tiger" sauce as "a perfect mixture of sweetness and Korean bold spice," and I'm inclined to agree. All those fresh grilled veggies were delicious, too.

The avocado rolls were out of this world. I think the only other avocado rolls I've tried were from the Cheesecake Factory in my pre-vegan days, and these ones definitely put them to shame. Unfortunately, there was only one roll for each of us; I could have eaten the whole plate myself.

I was kind of disappointed with the tofu palak paneer; it wasn't super flavorful. That's probably because the "paneer" part was missing in this veganized version, so the whole thing was toned down. At least it didn't attack my tongue with hot spice the way most Indian food does.

All in all, Fresheast gets my full recommendation to vegans and non-vegans alike. I plan to spend a good portion of the next year or so of my life lobbying the owners to open a branch in Santa Barbara so I can dine out there whenever I feel like being sustainable and/or ethnic.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Trick or Treat: Persinnamon Cookies

Last week at the farmers market, I noticed a new product dominating the booths: persimmons. Embarrassingly, I had never seen a persimmon before, and since I didn’t grow up under Plymouth Rock, I have to assume they’re just not common back in the northeast.

I decided to buy two persimmons because I was intrigued by them. When I asked the woman I bought them from what people usually did with persimmons she said, “Well, you could eat them like an apple… or you could make cookies or something.” Cookies it would be.

This past weekend, my brilliant college roommate, Victoria, was visiting from New York City where she goes to medical school. We spent much of her visit practicing handstands (a yoga move I have just recently mastered and which I am determined to show off whenever the opportunity presents itself).

Despite our rather higher-than-average combined intelligence, we decided to spend Sunday night huddled on my couch watching American Horror Story (the terrifying new FX series), drinking wine and shrieking in fear at every creak and groan that emanated from my 1920s third-world cottage.

When we reacted to the wind rattling the door frame by arming ourselves with a carving knife and a (now empty) wine bottle, I knew we had had enough. We needed a snack to distract us from our imminent demise at the hands of imagined ghouls lurking in the cottage.

I remembered the two persimmons (which I had named Russell Persimmons and Gene Persimmons), just waiting to be made into cookies. I thought adding cinnamon would give the cookies a nice Thanksgiving-ish flavor, and it would also allow me to invent an awesome new word: persimmon + cinnamon = persinnamon. Here’s what we used to make the persinnamon cookies:

Vegan Persinnamon Cookies


2 persimmons
1 tbsp water
½ cup Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts

We preheated the oven to 350 degrees. While Victoria chopped the persimmons up into about 1-inch chunks, I combined the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. I started to beat the sugar, Earth Balance, and water together into a cream, but my arms were exhausted from too many spontaneous handstands so Victoria had to take over:

Before putting the chopped persimmons into the food processor, we made the unfortunate decision to pop a couple of the pieces into our mouths. They were disgusting. I didn’t even notice the flavor because the sensation was so awful – the only way to describe it is arid. Even after I had spat my mouthful of persimmon into the trashcan and desperately clawed at my tongue to scrape off any offending residue, my mouth still felt like a desert had exploded inside it.

Victoria and I stared at each other in horror. How could such a terrible fruit exist on this earth? We were tempted to give up our cooking endeavor, but we didn’t want to waste the dry ingredients we had already prepared. Plus, we figured the persimmons wouldn’t be so bad once they were beat into a pulp and combined with tasty things like Earth Balance and sugar.

We pulsed the persimmons in the food processor until they were a smooth pulp:
Then we added the pulp to the sugar mixture and slowly stirred in the dry ingredients. Finally, we mixed in the walnuts and used our hands to shape 1-inch balls of dough. We baked them for 10 minutes.

Surprisingly, they didn’t expand at all; they cooked through, but maintained their little ball shape. So for the next batch, we flattened them out a bit so they would come out looking like normal cookies.

Despite the awfulness of the persimmons themselves, the cookies tasted great. They were a strange purplish color, but I didn't mind because I like purple things, generally. The cinnamon definitely gave them a little holiday kick, and since the aridity of the persimmons was canceled out by the moisture of the other ingredients, their sweet flavor came through.

We nommed on the persinnamon cookies while watching the rest of the American Horror Story episode, and kept a couple of extras nearby: if aimed properly, those little cookie balls could serve as effective weapons against intruding serial killers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Life Gives You Anything at All, Make Juice

Until recently, I thought the verb “to juice” only came up in conversations between body builders and professional athletes in reference to the steroids they don’t take.

But apparently, it also comes up in conversations between hippies and health nuts (and me). “Juicing” means stuffing whatever fruits and veggies you can get your hands on into a juicer and then drinking what comes out the other end.

My married friends Sloane and Jason juice like it’s their job (and they don’t work at Jamba Juice, so no, it’s not actually their job). They buy huge tubs of spinach at Costco and blend it with other vegetables and fruits, then walk around sipping from thermoses of green juice all day. They’re doing it to lose weight, and it’s working – they look good.

Some people go on juice cleanses, during which they drink only certain juices for a period of a few days, or a week, or even a month. I think a juice cleanse sounds about as appealing as a roundhouse kick to the face. And if you go around telling people, “I’m doing a juice cleanse,” you’ll probably get a roundhouse kick to the face anyway.

Sorry, but if I wanted to go on a liquid diet it would involve chardonnay, not liquefied chard.

I’m not about to stop eating solid foods, but my roommate has a juicer so I decided to try juicing the vegetables I had purchased at last week’s farmers market just to see what happened. Here’s what I used:

3 small cucumbers
3 small apples
4 cups spinach
3 cups kale

Spinach-kale-apple-cucumber juice
As I added the ingredients, I felt like a contestant on the groundbreaking early-90s Nickelodeon game show Family Double Dare. The contestants on that show were always doing absurd tasks like slingshotting water balloons at human targets to try to fill a container up to the line before the other secretly dysfunctional nauseatingly happy family could complete the same challenge.

Luckily, I wasn't competing against anyone else. And I wasn't using a slingshot to get the ingredients into the juicer. But my progress was quite slow-going:
Goodbye, 2 cups of kale. Hello, disappointing amount of juice.

 
After adding 4 cups of spinach. Really?!

Finally, after adding the apples and cucumbers (which, unsurprisingly, yielded a lot more juice than the leafy greens), I had filled a large mason jar. The juice tasted delicious. The cucumber and apple flavors dominated the bitterness of the kale, as I had hoped.

But I didn't know what to do with what was left of the ingredients - the parts that weren't turned into juice. They had collected in a big, gunky mess that smelled delightfully fresh but had the consistency of muck at the bottom of a lake:


I poked around online, but nobody had any enlightening ideas about what to do with this juicer "junk." Most people composted it or fed it to their rabbits. I decided to just eat it with a spoon.

Then came the dreaded task of cleaning the juicer. It came apart into like, eight pieces. Each of those pieces was coated in damp, shredded vegetables that needed to be disposed of before they started to stink.

The deconstruction and cleaning process is so complicated, there are instruction videos on youtube. I know because I consulted one of those videos after wrestling with the stubborn thing for about twenty minutes. I ended up winning - having just juiced, I had extra-human strength, obviously.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wanted: Vegan Terrorist

Cartoon credit: greenisthenewred.com

I like to think of veganism as the opposite of terrorism. Terrorists want to create, well, terror. Vegans (especially those who are vegans for anti-cruelty reasons) want to live and eat in a way that avoids suffering as much as possible.

But as it turns out, the Venn diagram of "veganism" and "terrorism" does not comprise two completely separate circles. There is an overlap, and that overlap is named Daniel Andreas San Diego:
He's been on the FBI's most wanted list since 2009 for his alleged involvement in two 2003 bombings in the San Francisco area. He was indicted in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, in July of 2004, but escaped before being taken into custody.

Obviously, terrorism is always upsetting. But this case is particularly troubling to me because San Diego is a vegan. According to the FBI, he has ties to the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC) animal rights extremist group and "is known to cook and make vegan foods, and he may be using this as his income."

First of all... how does one use "cooking and making vegan foods" as a source of income? Could someone please explain this to me so I can get in on it? Second of all, this is bad news for vegans. I obviously can't speak for all vegans, but we are generally a peaceful people, and violent extremists are not representative of the vegan lifestyle and mission.

Anyway, the notorious TV show America's Most Wanted is, apparently, good for something (other than terrifying families nationwide with its graphic dramatic reenactments of violent criminals who are on the loose in their neighborhoods). After a recent episode featured San Diego's case, a "reliable" tip came in, placing San Diego in Northampton, Massachusetts.

My sister lives in Northampton! Katie, if you're reading this, and if your new boyfriend has a suspicious penchant for vegan food and bombs, well... sorry. He's a terrorist.

If you, dear reader, see this vegan terrorist (he's six feet tall and 160 pounds), call the FBI and turn him in! He's giving vegans everywhere a bad name. If that doesn't matter to you, well, there's a $250,000 reward.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Loving Hut (Kicks Butt)

Last weekend, I learned what it means to love. It means you write haikus.

I was in San Francisco for a conference and in between listening to presentations, I spent as much time as I could with one of my best friends from college, Sam.

Sam is perfect: he is gorgeous, he speaks like eight languages, he has a beautiful tenor singing voice, he gives great advice, he laughs at all my jokes, he's in medical school and has delivered sixteen babies so far, and he's a good listener. He's the love of my life.

Of course, he’s also as gay as a musical theater adaptation of the new Twilight movie.

Sam agreed to go wherever I wanted for dinner on Friday night, so I suggested Loving Hut because of its inviting name. Who doesn't want to eat inside a loving hut?

There are a few locations around the city (and many more around the country and internationally - it's the largest vegan restaurant chain in the world); every location has its own menu, depending on the chef's inspiration.

We went to the Loving Hut in Chinatown because it was within walking distance of my hotel. The restaurant was quite unassuming, with white tables and chairs, beige walls, and a beige tiled floor. There was not much in the way of d├ęcor, except for a flat screen TV that played Chinese commercials and music videos on loop.

There was only one other couple in the restaurant, but our waitress gave the impression that she would have been totally comfortable running things when it got crowded. One of the languages Sam thinks he speaks is Chinese, so after we ordered he said, “Thank you!” to our waitress in Chinese. She was a good sport and answered him in Chinese, which he pretended to understand.

All the food was affordably priced (we're talking $5-10), so obviously we were committed to ordering appetizers, a main course, and dessert. We decided to split the pot stickers and golden nuggets as appetizers:
The pot stickers tasted exactly like you would expect, but the golden nuggets were delicious. I guess it's because they were deep-fried. For a main course, Sam ordered the wonton noodle soup with "BBQ soy char-siew" (a beef subsitute) and vegetables:

I ordered the club sandwich, mostly because I was interested to see what a vegan club sandwich would entail. It was layered grilled tofu, tomato, lettuce, vegan "ham," and vegan "mayonnaise" on wheat bread:
It tasted a lot like a regular club sandwich. I only ate two quarters of it because I was already kind of full from the appetizers (and because I wanted to save room for dessert), and took the rest as an emergency starvation prevention device for the rest of the conference weekend.

There was a whole case of desserts on display and all of them looked tasty. Our waitress made our decision for us when she told us that the cheesecake was homemade.  Sam doesn't really like regular cheesecake, but he said he would split it with me because he loves me (and we were, after all, at the Loving Hut).
It was so good. Sam ended up eating most of it because I was in the middle of telling him a ridiculous story about the drama in my life, and I couldn't talk and eat at the same time. He said he preferred it to regular cheesecake because it didn't have such a strong cheese flavor. It was dense and sweet, and they really nailed the graham cracker crust.

I wish there were a Loving Hut location in Santa Barbara so I could go there whenever I was in the mood for a vegan love fest. I'll have to settle for buying some of the merchandise off their website - they've got tote bags, animal neck pillows (?), recipe books, etc.

I'm pretty into love in general, but I felt extra lovey inside the Loving Hut. I loved Sam, I loved the environment, I loved the animals I was not eating (and for whom I can purchase "neck pillows" on the Loving Hut website, apparently), and I loved the delicious food I was eating. I felt so full of love that I decided to write the Loving Hut a haiku:

I love Loving Hut.
I went there with my friend Sam.
We ate vegan food.

Or, alternately:

I love animals,
But I do not think they need
Special neck pillows.

Monday, November 14, 2011

San Francisco: Shrimp Is the Fruit of the Sea

After a weekend full of conference presentations at the American Musicological Society's annual meeting and a bit of on-foot exploration of San Francisco’s Financial District, Chinatown, and the Castro, I’m back in my little cottage in Santa Barbara.

I forgot to bring Clif bars with me to San Francisco as emergency starvation prevention devices, but I wouldn’t have needed them; the area around the Hyatt Regency, which hosted the conference, was rife with vegan food.

By walking across the street (and navigating through the Occupy San Francisco tent city, some of whose inhabitants I had already encountered taking sponge baths in the bathroom of the hotel lobby), I could arrive at the renovated Ferry Building. The collection of stores and booths within the Ferry Building is, for the most part, quite vegan-friendly.

On Friday, I ate lunch with Sasha and Emma at Delica, an American-Japanese fusion delicatessen whose vegetarian and vegan options were indicated on chalkboard menus hanging from the ceiling. I went with the hijiki and soybean salad (seaweed, dried soybeans, edamame, konnyaku, mountain potato, daikon, wild mizuna, fried tofu, and kuko, cooked with soy sauce) - even though over half of the ingredients sounded made-up to me - with the organic agedashi tofu steak:
The hijiki tasted exactly like the ocean.
But the most thrilling establishment? Pepple’s Vegan Donuts. I was floored to discover that all the donuts Pepple makes are homemade, vegan, and use only organic ingredients. I was also floored to discover that “Pepple” is not actually a person (when I asked the saleswoman, "Are you Pepple?" she laughed at me), but I chose to ignore that information for the sake of my vegan donut fantasy. At the saleswoman's suggestion, I purchased the salted caramel donut and then bothered Sasha until she photographed me with my new love:
What's more disconcerting: the fact that I only bought one donut, or my hipster bangs?
On Saturday morning, the Ferry Building is host to the most extensive farmer’s market I have ever encountered. I have an inexplicable, but very real, thing for booths. The only things I love more than local fruits and vegetables are booths. So imagine my delight as I wandered through booth after booth, trying samples of everything in sight and realizing that persimmons might be random, but they’re freaking delicious.

Although I found San Francisco to be on the whole more vegan-friendly than Santa Barbara (and this, of course, might just be due to its larger size), I had quite a confusing dining experience at lunch in the lobby of the Hyatt on Saturday.

One of the professors from UCSB decided to treat all the graduate students to a fancy meal. There were no vegan main courses on the menu, so I went with the whole wheat pasta, which came with all kinds of assorted vegetables... and shrimp.

I told our waitress, who had one of those faces that always look pissed off, "I’m a vegan, so could you just make the pasta vegan, please?" She nodded curtly. I decided I ought to specify that I don’t eat butter, and she cut me off, saying, "Yup, you’re vegan, I get it – I’ll tell them to toss the pasta in olive oil instead." And she moved on to the next person at the table.

When my pasta came out, it was tossed in olive oil instead of butter... but nestled within it were shrimps. I was baffled. "Excuse me," I said to the waitress, "There is shrimp on this pasta." She stared at me, apparently as baffled by my statement of the obvious as I was by the shrimp.

"Uh… I don’t eat shrimp," I stammered. "Remember, I’m a vegan?" She did not become flustered but answered, "Well, I noticed that you didn't specifically mention leaving off the shrimp, but I didn’t say anything because I thought maybe you were ordering for someone else." She stared me down, as if her answer was entirely logical.

I know that shrimp has many virtues - Bubba lists them all in explaining to Forrest Gump why "shrimp is the fruit of the sea." But why would I be ordering for someone else... someone who doesn't eat butter but does eat shrimp? I continued to be baffled, but she took away my meal and replaced it, taking long enough in the kitchen to convince me that she hadn’t just picked the offending shrimps out of the pasta.

Aside from the Shrimp Encounter, my San Francisco dining experiences were exceptional. More to come, including a review of The Loving Hut.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Give a Fig: Good Food in Atascadero


This weekend marks the most important event in the social life of the nation's musicologists: the national conference of the American Musicological Society. It's riveting. Lucky for this aspiring musicologist, the conference is in San Francisco this year.

Considering how much I love San Francisco, I spend not nearly enough time here. Though conference food is, as a rule, vegan-unfriendly (packaged pastries and powdered creamer, anyone?), the restaurants surrounding the Hyatt Regency promise a variety of vegan taste adventures.

Now that I’ve arrived, I am full of energy (and, after a compelling presentation this morning entitled “Nico Muhley and Post-2000 Chamber Pop,” feel convinced I ought to move to Brooklyn, stalk the likes of Nico Muhley and Sufjan Stevens, and beg them to let me perform with them). But yesterday was a different story.

After teaching three discussion sections on The Marriage of Figaro and substitute-teaching a lecture on program music, I was exhausted and not looking forward to the six-hour drive from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. Luckily, I had my plucky, pleasant-conversationalist friend Linda in the passenger seat and a Tupperware full of leftover homemade vegan nutella for the road.

We decided to meet David, who was on his way back to Santa Barbara from a much-more-boring conference in San Francisco, for dinner in Atascadero. I searched “vegan” on Yelp.com to find a suitable restaurant. When I told Linda that, “I just yelped ‘vegan,’” she pointed out how incomprehensible that statement would have been twenty years ago when “yelp” meant a pitched gasp and “vegan” only referred to those weird neighbors whom nobody wanted to invite to the potluck block party.

Nevertheless, my yelping of “vegan” yielded a promising result: Fig, an independent establishment right off the 101 freeway that serves mostly California-grown organic fare. Chris Dillow, the friendly proprietor, greeted us and took our order at the counter. The tiny space was adorned with line sketches of famous thinkers like Walt Whitman and paintings by local artists.


Linda and David both opted for the Tuscan Sun sandwich (dried tomato and olive tapenade, pulled chicken, and melted provolone on a house-baked roll). There were quite a few tempting vegan menu options, and I was feeling a bit chilly so I went with the Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Stew (quinoa, tomato, onion, celery, ginger, and cilantro):


It was flavorful, hearty, and the perfect amount of stew for $6. I also got a side of roasted Windrose Farm potatoes with Kitehawk olive oil, and they were seasoned so perfectly that I devoured them sans condiments.

Chris told us about the renovations that had happened within Fig just last week while she bustled around, making sure we had everything we needed. She made us feel right at home.

Linda and I pilfered two spoons (all their take-out containers and utensils are biodegradable, by the way) for the homemade nutella, but I was so full after my stew that I didn’t even need to snack on it during the rest of the drive (but of course I did anyway – that stuff is good).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chocolatey Hazelnutty Goodness: Vegan Nutella

Anyone who knows me knows that I basically subsist on peanut butter toast. But I spent a couple of summers studying in Italy and guess what they don’t have in Italy? Peanut butter for under twelve euro a jar. So I discovered nutella, an incredible spreadable combination of hazelnuts and milk chocolate.

Upon returning from Italy, I realized that nutella was also available in the States. In fact, my college roommate Vicky had been eating it by the heaping spoonful right in front of my face for months and I hadn’t even noticed.

Nutella became a treat for me – not a dietary staple like peanut butter, but definitely something I liked to have around for all-night paper writing and/or all-night dramatic relationship mourning.

Unfortunately, nutella does not exist in vegan form, so I hadn’t experienced its chocolately hazelnutty goodness for about eight months. When my friend Linda sent me this recipe from The Family Kitchen at Babble.com, I decided to veganize it and make my own. Here's how I did it:

Vegan Nutella


1 ½ cups whole hazelnuts
¾ cup Better Than Milk vegan soy powder
1 ½ cups almond milk
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 ½ cups vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
a pinch of salt

I was substituting soy powder for powdered milk, almond milk for whole milk, agave nectar for honey, and vegan chocolate chips for milk chocolate. Obviously, I would need to make an epic trip to Whole Foods.

I know I shouldn’t have been surprised that hazelnuts are expensive. I guess I just didn’t expect to drop roughly the equivalent cost of a shoddy liver transplant on two cups of hazelnuts and a can of soy powder. But I was committed, so I splurged.

I got home from Whole Foods and immediately got to work. First, I spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet and toasted them at 400 degrees for ten minutes.

While they toasted (making the whole cottage smell delicious), I brought the soy powder, almond milk, agave nectar, and salt to a boil on the stove top. Once it boiled, I brought it down to a simmer and let it hang out while I dealt with the chocolate chips.

Because I don’t have a double boiler, I had to melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. It was pretty easy; I just had to heat them in thirty-second increments so they didn’t burn. By that time, the hazelnuts were ready.

I removed them from the oven and scooped them into a tea towel that belongs to my roommate, Erin (she is fancy and owns things like tea towels). Then I pulled off a maneuver that can best be described as vigorous massaging of the hazelnuts. Rubbing them against each other made their skins pop off (for the most part), and it also made some of them pop out of the tea towel onto the floor. Obviously, I picked them up and ate them off the floor - they had cost me like, a dollar each.


I transferred the naked hazelnuts to the food processor and pulsed them into a pulp. I poured in the melted chocolate and pulsed it all together, then finally added the hot milk mixture and blended that in, too.

My nutella was done! And it was delicious. Erin and I used wooden spoons to scrape it out of the food processor and shamelessly licked the spoons clean while we watched Beauty and the Beast on VHS (yes, we still own a VHS player). Erin said it tasted like a “classier, dark version” of regular nutella.


I put the rest of the nutella in the refrigerator so it could become a bit more solid and spreadable; after an hour, it was perfect.

Maybe it’s the fact that I made it myself, but I assert that my vegan nutella tastes better than the real thing. It’s definitely too expensive to make very often, so I’ll just have to make it last as long as I can – though it’s so yummy, rationing it will certainly be a struggle.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fun with Florets: Baked Cauliflower with Mushrooms

I get a kick out of words, and I get an even bigger kick out of absurdly specific words. For example, “defenestration” – the act of throwing something or someone out a window – usually only comes up in conversations about Renaissance politics in Prague (or after watching this video).

The word “cete,” which I recently discovered while playing Words With Friends, refers to a group of badgers. I can’t imagine a situation in which I would have to use the word “cete,” but when it happens, I will be delighted.

“Floret” is another one of those too-specific words; it is rarely used, except by people whose job it is to write menus for fancy restaurants. It really only gets used in reference to broccoli or cauliflower. Of the two, broccoli is definitely more prominent in my diet; in fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate cauliflower… before today.

I wanted to invent a dish that would use up the mushrooms I had acquired last week in a misguided spur-of-the-moment grocery purchasing decision. I don’t particularly like mushrooms, at least not enough to make them the star ingredient in a meal, so I figured baking them into a cauliflower-combo dish would make the most of them.

Vegan Baked Cauliflower with Mushrooms
(makes four servings)


1 cauliflower
2 tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp organic sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ white onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
½ cup Daiya mozzarella-style shreds

First, I preheated the over to 350 degrees. While it was heating up, I got to break the cauliflower into florets. It was quite fun; I ended up getting carried away and breaking it up into smaller and smaller cute little pieces that I decided to call florettes.

Then I just dumped all the ingredients in a big bowl together and mixed them up as best I could. I wasn’t sure about the proportions at all. I was nervous that five cloves of garlic might be too much (although “too much” is not really in my garlic-related vocabulary), and I wasn’t sure what the sugar would do. I’ve started adding sugar to soy sauce and mustard when I make sauce for grilled veggies, but it might not work the same way when combined with vinegar and garlic.

It was a risk. Worst case scenario, I would just defenestrate the whole thing. I was hoping it wouldn't come to that.

I spread the mixture into a glass baking dish, like so:

… and baked it for 40 minutes, checking on it and giving it a stir every ten minutes or so. After 40 minutes, I pulled it out of the oven, sprinkled on the Daiya cheese, and stuck it back in for a few more minutes.

The Daiya melted all over it and it tasted so good. The mushroom and balsamic combination worked out well, the sugar didn't get in the way, and it definitely wasn't too garlicky.

The florets were flavorful and stayed fenestrated (which, I imagine, is the opposite of defenestrated), so I count it as a success.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No Meat for the Wicked

Back in the day, Ozzy Osbourne was known for tossing pig intestines and cow livers into the crowds at Black Sabbath concerts. According to legend (and video footage), he actually bit the head off a live bat at one point.

And... now he's a vegan.

Amazingly, I have something in common with Ozzy Osbourne (other than distressingly unruly hair).

Photo: blisstree.com
Contact Music announced Ozzy's new vegan diet last week, and Ozzy recently talked about his choice to go vegan with fellow vegan Sara Gilbert on his wife Sharon's show The Talk. When asked what inspired him to make the switch, he answered, "My assistant showed me a video called Forks and Knives (sic) or something, about (cutting out) meat and dairy products, so I thought, 'I’ll give this a shot!'"

Despite his confusion of the name of the film Forks Over Knives - Sharon later refers to it as "Forky Knife" - Ozzy seems to be secure in his dietary decision. The audience members laugh at him when he says he's only lasted a week so far as a vegan. But he takes the high road and explains how much better he feels now that he's changed his diet and is working out every morning.

I'm excited to see the ranks of celebrity vegans growing (Katy Perry and Russell Brand, Bill Clinton, Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi, to name a few), even if Ozzy does admit he's not sure how long his veganism will last. It demonstrates that vegans aren't all weird, blog-writing, socially awkward hippies and hipsters.

Some of us are. But not all. And hey, if the Prince of Darkness can pull of veganism, anyone can!