…since my last post. I was working lot’s and recently was on course getting my Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors level 2 certification. I’ve been finished work for a week now so I’ve just been taking care of errands I have to do, cooking, and trying to make decisions about the direction of my life. In the short term I am trying to spend some free time in Toronto while in between jobs to catch up with friends, go to good restaurants, attend some Ashtanga classes, and see the final shows at Siesta Nouveaux. On the cooking side I was really stoked on these banana-oatmeal scones I made recently, some are filled with Saskatoon Berry jam, some with homemade apple sauce, one with almond butter, and one plain. They are probably one of the best things I’ve ever baked, up there with the sandwich bread I always make now. I also made what I think was my best go at sushi recently. The rice was well flavoured, the ingredients fresh and tasty, and the rolls were the right size and fairly tight. I won’t be hired by a restaurant anytime soon but it’s getting there.
I bought a couple George Orwell books from a used book store in town, Down and Out in Paris and London, and Homage to Catalonia. The copy of Down and Out In Paris and London I think is neat because of its old fashioned adds that include, among others for Jiff shaving stick, Cadbury’s, and a journal evaluating the ongoing war effort (the book is dated 1940).
Reading the book reminded me of being down and out so to speak in Cinque Terre (Monterosso al Mare to be specific) and Copenhagen. I guess it wasn’t that harrowing in the end but it gave me a glimpse into another kind of life that I am fortunate not to have to live day to day. It increased in me the feeling that it is criminal to allow people to live in such a way. However, it made having a comfortable bed with a great view over Corniglia even better after spending a night on an outdoor train platform with trains in transit blasting through every five minutes. It also reminded me of talking all evening with two Frenchman and and young woman from San Francisco at the hostel in Bergen. I talked quite extensively to the older of the two men, who was probably in his late 30s or early 40s and from Paris, about Orwell. It’s funny how I remember so many of the details of the conversation and where each of them was from, what they did etc, but do not remember any of their names. Meetings were a significant part of the travel experience. These conversations went on for hours at times and would being quite engaging, leaving me with a feeling of actually knowing the person. Afterwards we parted ways, and will likely never see each other again.
It is now getting into soup season. I’m sure everyone likes soup, it is such a versatile food that can be pretty much whatever you want. I personally enjoy having a simple pureed soup in combination with a sandwich or salad (non pureed some, due to the different textures in the soup I think are better soup to having with some some fresh bread). Today I made a green pean with mint soup, with sauted onion and garlic, soy milk, dried peppermint, green peas and salt and pepper. And to go with it, open faced tomato sandwiches on homemade English muffins. I spread hummus on the muffins, put the tomato slices on, topped with a pinch of salt and pepper, fresh oregano, a few drops of olive oil, then got them hot in the oven.
I’ve gotten into making my own bread recently. I’m not that interested in baking sweets and sweet breads but I’ve been wanting to learn how to make my own healthy whole wheat breads for soups, sandwiches and the like. Among things I’ve bakes recently is this whole wheat sandwich bread (recipe from veganbaking.net), a multi-grain bread made with Red River cereal and some other seeds and grains, a quick bread, and english muffins (plain whole wheat and whole wheat with raisins). I think I’ve finally been able to make a decent paratha to have with my curries, soft but not doughy, cooked through but not dry and stiff; I think the key was proper temperature control. I enjoy making bread, for some reason working the dough with my hands is really satisfying. It just seems so wholesome and good (eating it too).
I also went to a show in Collingwood. It was my first time going to a show in Collingwood, and first show and almost a year. Grey Kingdom and Baby Eagle played, they were enjoyable but it was a weird experience overall. There were a good number of people there but they were just there to drink as opposed to see the performers, who were well aware that I was the only person there to see them. It was kind of awkward but it provides a good opportunity to talk to the people in the bands. And I bought my ticket for Youth of Today, stoked for that but also kind of worried I’ll be disappointed.
After quite a bit of experimentation I have been able to make what I think is a decent pad thai. Over various attempts I changed a number of things, noodles, sauce, ingredients etc. It’s not completely authentic but after looking at many recipes I used what I think are the best alternatives. I used white vinegar in place of tamarind, whole wheat fettuccine instead of rice noodles (they have a heavier taste/texture than rice noodles, I found when I used rice noodles, it turned into a gelatinous mess), parsley instead of cilantro, and instead of roasting and grinding peanuts myself I used peanut butter (the 100% peanut kind). I think adding the vinegar really improved the sauce, not stir-frying anything for too long, and having really fresh green onions, sprouts, and parsley were some of the key factors. Otherwise I have been killing some time lately foraging for apples, apples trees are everywhere around here. I have been eating them whole, cooked in oats, in salads, in apple crisps, cored and baked with sugar and spices in the middle, I even made a spaghetti sauce with shredded apple. More conventionally, I have also made apple sauce to go along with these english muffins I made the other day (vegan of course).
This part of the year is probably the best time of year for food in Canada (this part of it anyways). I think the variety, quantity, and quality of local foods is at its peak. I also love this time of year because the days are fairly warm and mostly sunny but the nights are cool and crisp, and the leaves are just starting to change. I look forward to autumn, though I like every season.
Lately, from both my backyard garden and the one I help out at, I have been harvesting lots of tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as some various kinds of squash, hot peppers, and carrots among other things. Most of the squash and the root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and onion I am living on the plants or in the ground because I know they’ll last for a while longer there and with the abundance of tomatoes I’ve been eating a lot of tomato dishes. Today I made a chick pea curry using an heirloom tomats and hot peppers that I picked fresh (along with various other ingredients), which I garnished with green zebra tomatoes and parsley (as a substitute for cilantro) that I also picked fresh. Instead of utensils I made whole wheat paratha and ate it with that.
Here is a picture of a couple of the green zebra tomatoes we have growing, I had never seen them before the fruits appeared on the plants so that made them interesting. According to Wikipedia “Green Zebra was bred by Tom Wagner of Everett, Washington, and introduced in his Tater-Mater Seed Catalog in 1983. It is not an heirloom tomato, despite often being mistakenly designated as one.” They look neat and have lots of flavour too. Also picture is on of the squashes (an acorn) I picked, and the peppers. I don’t know the variety of pepper, and I haven’t tried one on it’s own but when pruning some tomatoes recently the other person I manage the garden with tried one and said it was fairly hot. The curry didn’t turn out that hot though (I used two to make two bowls of curry). I supposed I should just try one myself to see how hot they are.
Recently I came across this woman’s cooking show on tv and in the episode I watched she made a dish she called “spaghetti alla ziff.” I wasn’t able to find it anywhere else online but from what she said on the show the dish is from the southern Italian region (the instep of the boot) of Basilicata where supposedly peppers of varying kinds are used extensively in cooking. The dish is simple, containing only garlic, olive oil, parsley, ground pepper, and spaghetti, but I thought it was pretty interesting. I followed here recipe fairly closely but couldn’t remember the exact order in which all the ingredients were added. The garlic (I used two large cloves) is sautéd in olive oil, I then added a bit of cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, briefly sautéd a bit longer before added a few ladles of water that the pasta was cooking in, adding a bit more pepper. A minute or so after adding the water I added the half-cooked pasta into the pan to finish cooking, adding a bit more pepper again. When the water was all gone I mixed in the parsely, mixing it in before putting the pasta on my plate. I couldn’t remember when she added the pepper before or after adding water to the pan so I did both. She said the dish is called spaghetti alla ziff because of the sound the pepper makes when added to the pan. To get some fresh vegetables into the meal I had also earlier prepared a simple salad of cherry tomatoes (which were perfect, and local), diced tofu (a decent stand-in for feta or a similar cheese) rubbed with garlic salt, fresh basil, olive oil, and some lemon juice. Once again simple, but the simplicity really let the natural flabouv of the tomatoes and basil shine, and the coolness was good to offset the pasta which was quite spicy. I love pasta and salads and these quick, simple examples were really satisfying together. I thought too that the pasta dish was a little different and worth sharing.
So aside from being really into making sushi lately I’ve been making a lot with cucumbers and tomatoes because I have so many from both my garden and the one I help at. I like the idea of eating seasonally for the obvious environmental reasons. But also because I find that often what is fresh at that time of year is what is desirable to eat. The fresh tomatoes and cucumbers I’ved used recently in such great summer foods such as the gazpacho, chickpea salad, and cold carrot soup pictured here. Then through the winter you’re left with a lot of root vegetables which are great for soups that warm one up on a cold day. I also think it makes one more connected to the natural cycles of the earth, making for a feeling of oneness. I have to say that I am not the best when it comes to eating seasonally or locally, but I am going to make an effort at improving in those respects.
Fresh gazpacho made from with tomatoes, cucumber, and basil from my garden (among other things).
The Mediterranean-inspired chickpea salad I ate with it. Mediterranean because of the combination of chickpeas, kalamata olives, grapes, tomatoes, and fresh parsley (along with cucumber of course).
This cold soup is a modification of a recipe I got from Jónsi’s raw foods site. The bulk of it is carrot juice and I replaced the avocado called for in the recipe with cucumber and replaced the spinach with the mesclun greens (mostly arugula) from my garden. It is a really easy to make, tasty, and healthy (would probably be better if I juiced the carrots myself though). Served with some grapes and PC sweet potato tortilla chips.
I also recently tried smoked bacon-flavoured tempeh for the first time with my standard scrambled tofu and fruit. It did have a taste and smell quite similar to that of bacon though the texture was pretty different. Despite the fact that I generally stay away from mock meats, and I think it is often more important to mimic texture rather than taste when replacing meat it was still pretty tasty. I will try it on a sandwich next. I think this might have actually been my first time having tempeh. I’m hoping that a store around here has un-seasoned tempeh so I could try it in other things where I don’t want the taste of bacon.
In other news I am writing an article for a hardcore-related zine that my friend Sterling is putting out. When I find out what it is called, when it will be available, and any other details I find out I will post them. I’m also volunteering at a fundraising dinner, consisting of in-season locally grown foods, put on by the local Free Spirit Gardens.