30 April 2010

Lemongrass Tofu Noodle Soup


For tofu:

  • 12 oz. tofu, cut in 1/2" cubes
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemongrass powder
  • 1 tsp. five-spice powder
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil

For soup:

  • 8 oz. dried Thai rice noodes, linguini-width
  • 2 stalks lemongrass OR 2 tbsp. lemongrass powder
  • 6 c. veggie stock
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk green garlic, bulb minced and stalk sliced
  • 1 spring onion, bulb minced and stalk sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets including stems
  • 1 1/2 c. cabbage of some sort, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce 

  1. Combine soy sauce, 1 tsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. lemongrass powder and five-spice powder in spouted cup; pour over tofu in mixing bowl and mix with plastic spoon, covering tofu completely. Chill in fridge for at least half an hour.
  2. Dunk noodles in a pot of boiling water, cover the pot and turn off the heat; allow the noodles to soften in the hot water for 10 min.; drain and set aside.
  3. Put 1 tsp. sesame oil in wide skillet and heat to medium-low; sauteé tofu until slightly browned on all sides and firm, and set aside.
  4. Put 1 tsp. sesame oil in a medium-large soup pot and heat to medium-low; 
  5. Add ginger, garlic and spring onion bulbs, carrots and lemongrass (include left-over stalk pieces if using fresh), and sauteé until fragrant.
  6. Add stock,  bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 min.
  7. Add broccoli and cabbage; stir and allow to simmer 2 min.
  8. Reduce heat to minimum and add the tofu, garlic and spring onion stalk, and fish sauce; cook for several minutes.
  9. Ladle noodles into bowls and serve soup on top.
  10. Enjoy!


Fantastic - fresh and very flavorful.

26 April 2010

Lavender-Quinoa-Almond Muffins

I finished the liver cleanse, and realized that a) I felt much better without eating flour (i.e. gluten), and b) I didn't miss dairy products at all. (More on this in a later post). So, in a natural enthousiasm to bake something after a three-week hiatus, I experimented around, in a chain-of-thought style.

I knew I had quinoa leftovers, the pot of dried Croatian lavender literally jumped out of the (packed) pantry as I opened it, and the best replacement for regular flour is almond flour (in my opinion). I remembered Mollie Katzen's excellent wild rice-quinoa muffin recipe. Some googling (here and here) and head-scratching later, this adapted recipe took form.


2 cups quinoa (cooked)
2 cups almond flour
3/4 cups of sugar--the night before, in a glass jar, mix the (organic white cane) sugar with 2 Tablespoons of lavender flour, let sit, closed, for about 24hrs
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

3/4 cup almond milk
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup safflower oil


The usual: whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Poor the wet mix into the dry ingredients, combine without overmixing. Bake 25-30 min at 350F.


They smell fantastic. Without an overpowering smell, they don't taste bitter at all, adding the flowers in the batter was the way to go. Maybe, next time I'll grind them first, but they were as innocuous as if I'd added thyme. The nuttiness flavour brought by the almond flour and the quinoa played second fiddle to the lavender, exactly as I had hoped. The only thing was that they were very crumbly, I actually had trouble getting them out of the baking pan--next time, muffin cups (paper). Also, next time, I'll have to think of a way to limit the sugar--tricky, since too much lavender can bring a bitter flavour (as I learned from infusing milk with lavender a little while back...). Of course now I'm thinking of infusing stevia extract with lavender.

22 April 2010

Brooklyn Dark Matter

I wasn't even aware of this beer before rolling up at Milltown to do some writing this evening, and my initial impulses towards it – bourbon-barrel-aged usually sells me straight away – were settled when the barkeep let me know there were 5 kegs of it in North Carolina, and Miltown had 2 of them – and that was it.

The beer: despite a nearly opaque brown-black, it's not a super-heavy ale. Malty, with the sweet oakiness of the bourbon barrels that's pleasant and not overpowering. Super flavorful body, nice vanilla notes, and a balanced, roasty finish with just a bit of hop. Just a great beer – shame it's only around for a while and only on tap, but highly recommended if you can get your hands on it. And of course: great, great name.

UPDATE: Now (beginning of May) on tap at Tyler's too!

21 April 2010

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale

Very intriguing beer right off from the name – Soba! – and no less from the taste. A golden and a bit cloudy ale with a thick creamy head, it has a nice lemony nose and a strong but not overpowering vanilla taste both from the first and throughout. There's also a citrus edge just at the outside of the flavor, super-creamy mouthfeel and taste generally, and a perfect tempering with hop bitterness. A thoroughly tasty, satisfying and non-standard cream ale – recommended

15 April 2010

Dr. Pepper Heritage

The ongoing popularity of Mexican Coke and the mishegas around high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, as the kids say) has led the other big sugar-water makers to actually test out making their drinks with sugar, again. Pepsi Throwback got a pretty good reception, and I was genuinely disappointed the other week when I was unable to buy the Mountain Dew equivalent despite a sign advertising it.

So it was with great excitement that I found a row of Dr. Pepper Throwback cans at a gas station yesterday on my way back up from Atlanta. I should explain that I used to drink a lot of Dr. Pepper: really a lot, this-is-what's-wrong-with-American-diets amounts. Probably for the best, I burned out on it and more generally on soda as a result, but it's a taste that did at one point occupy a pretty big part of many days for me. Therefore, pretty exciting to taste finally what it really should taste like.

And that is? So much better. I'd actually had, uncharacteristically, a regular Dr. Pepper a few days earlier on my way down to Atlanta, so had the flavor still in mind as I popped the can open. The first thing you notice: no chemical escape of Dr. Pepper air freshener flavor, and much, much less carbonation – this is a good thing. The second thing: the sweet and mouthfeel of sugar is just so, so different. In the context of this soda, it means that rather than coating your mouth in a syrupy plaster and finishing with a chemical dry (regular), you can actually taste the flavor of Dr. Pepper: which is nice! The finish is also sweet, smooth and pleasant without being saccharine.

Am I just pretending here? No I am not. This was a really excellent soda. I won't pretend it's good for me (though less-awful than HFCS), but it'd be nice if this were available regularly, or in a fountain, rather than the standard stuff. It's a clearly better product, and I'd pay more for it – at a buck a can, I'm guessing the Dr. Pepper Company is still doing just fine, profit-margin-wise, on its carbonated sugar water with food coloring. But as with a frustrating number of things in contemporary US society, it's easier to rake in a bit more money making a much worse product, and so that's what we'll continue to get.

Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken's 30th Anniversary Ale

Sierra Nevada has certainly been raising their game recently – the Harvest Series is both one of the best ideas and most well-executed set of beers I've had in a while, with the Southern Hemisphere just a fantastic beer. So it's not any surprise that they're really blowing the doors off for their 30th anniversary, releasing a series of four beers emphasizing big tastes and age.

First up is the Fritz & Ken's Ale, and it is a big (9.3%ABV) and distinctive beer. The first taste is a smoky, roasty malt flavor – probably the best use of smokiness I've ever tasted in a beer. The palette fills out with chocolatey tones and only a bit of sweetness, finishing dry and with smoke still all around in an incredibly pleasant way. Probably the closest a beer can come to the experience of a cigar. Certainly not a summer afternoon beer, but a worthwhile quaff nonetheless.

08 April 2010


Apparently eggs for breakfast is a good idea for reasons well past their general deliciousness:

A new study demonstrates that eating protein-rich eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day. The study, published in the February issue ofNutrition Research, found that men who consumed an egg-based breakfast ate significantly fewer calories when offered an unlimited lunch buffet compared to when they ate a carbohydrate-rich bagel breakfast of equal calories. This study supports previous research which revealed that eating eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet helped overweight dieters lose 65 percent more weight and feel more energetic than dieters who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories and volume.

07 April 2010

Duck and Vietnamese Sausage Soup

Finally got around to using the duck stock when I found some Vietnamese sausage at an Asian market; put together a few ingredients from recipes I found and let 'er rip.

  • 4 oz. Vietnamese sausage, sliced
  • 4 cups duck stock
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 3-inch knob of ginger, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 package rice noodles
  • 3 Star anise
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce, or more according to taste
  • 1 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • sesame oil
  1. Soak rice noodles in cold water, drain and set aside
  2. Heat sesame oil over medium-low heat
  3. Add onion, ginger, star anise, sugar and five-spice powder; mix thoroughly
  4. Add a few tablespoons of the duck stock, soy sauce and fish sauce to prevent ingredients from sticking
  5. Add sausage and sauteé for several minutes
  6. Add remainder of stock and raise to boil; lower temperature and simmer for 15 min. on medium heat.
  7. Add noodles and cook for 10 min. at a simmer
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Spicy (this may be the result of some leftovers I threw in with some spice of their own, and the inclusion of the chilis the Vietnamese sausage came with), savory, tasty. A winner! Probably would be equally excellent with chicken stock if that's what you got.

04 April 2010

Beau Joubert Oak Lane Pinot Noir Rosé 2006

Another great rosé and a very big contrast. The pinot noir comes through strongly, and there's a very nice acidity to it, also balanced by sweetness and an excellent finish. Lovely South African wine, and was a total steal on clearance at $6 at Harris Teeter; definitely worth picking up a bottle for more than that, though.

Domaine Luc Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2009

As you may have noticed, I'm on a bit of a rosé kick. And why not? Perfect weather for a nice crisp wine, and this guy may take the cake. Crisp and light, with a perfectly balanced hint of both acidity and sweetness, it's really just a great summer wine. Good deep flavor and can complement spicy food or served on its own, and a steal at $9/bottle.

02 April 2010

Community Food Principles

My last post got some great comments over at Google Buzz, not in the comments here, so I thought I'd share some of the community's food principles.

JD offers:

Implied, but not directly noted, is avoidance of processed foods. This resolve doesn't always work for me, but, particularly while reading Omnivore's Dilemma, I'd really like to keep King Corn out of my cell structure as much as possible--and it's in just about everything that's not a free-standing, unadulterated food.

I agree entirely, and when buying pre-made food tend to opt for those with the fewest ingredients. 

LG offers several of her own:

This addition/recommendation is less about health and more about fun, but it can allow for healthy cooking due to mental flexibility: Don't be afraid to improvise! This is my main way of cooking. I improvise within a structure- I pick a grain and a protein and then the veggies and flavors start to fall into place. Then as I go, things evolve. It is always tolerable and usually delicious. One can go far with trust, intuition, and fun. 
And more practically, I have decided the frozen vegetables are a-okay. I used to only go for fresh, but my lifestyle is unpredictable, so I always have a stash of frozens and in the meantime I try to use my fresh ones. I figure its better to have vegetables than to waste fresh ones that I don't get to in time. 
Except for 6 months of my life, I have been without a microwave in my home. Just an FYI that it is do-able. However, I am into heating up leftovers in the microwave at school in my spiffy pyrex dishes! Yay for less plastic toxins in my food. 

A rule I'm trying to keep with myself: NO CORN SYRUP! Except in decadent gummy candies every now and then or soda if caffeine is needed in a migraine or road trip emergency.

HFCS is a big no-no with me, and I do find that while life sans microwave is do-able, I really wish I had one for re-heating rice.

And KG notes:

I appreciate the part about the beer, obviously. I am constantly amazed at the bewilderment of other beer "appreciators" at high-end beer prices. Like you said, top-shelf beer is still cheaper than even Bud at a bar. I think the term is "anchoring", where people's attitudes toward acceptable prices are very slow to move from the original expected price. We think beer=cheap, even when we have the opportunity to try world-class beers for <$20. This explains why foodie Weavesters would happily pay $14 for a "mid-range" wine bottle and scoff at $18 for a six-pack of Hopslam, which, in terms of flavor and volume, is the better buy.

Moreover, there's more predictability with beer than wine, especially as regards the price:quality relationship. Spend $12 on a 6-pack and it's almost certainly gonna be pretty excellent; spend $25 on a bottle of wine and it might be great or it might be "meh." Or corked, which happens a lot more often than skunking.

Not that I don't love wine!

Great feedback, y'all – keep 'em coming!

01 April 2010

Food Principles

Most of my posts and thoughts here are descriptive (I ate/drank/made this – here's how/where) rather than proscriptive, but I do have a central set of motivating ideas about food behind my actions and consumptions.  I'm not doctrinaire in anything, really, and food is no exception – making hard-and-fast rules keeps you from a range of experiences, and so many of the hard-and-fast food rules cut out favorite things of mine, so: all in moderation.

Rather than being a total locavore/vegetarian/Atkin's/caveman/cheapskate, I find that applying a set of general principles (which can always be adapted for context) serves me well in making food that is generally healthy, tasty and affordable. It's not an all-encompassing philosophy, and clearly your mileage may vary, but if you were wondering how or why I do what I do, these are a pretty good guide. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on food.

  • When shopping, think by ingredients rather than meals. A lot of people (I used to and very occasionally still do this myself) go shopping with a template derived from recipes, e.g., "I'd like to have Chicken Kiev, so I need X, Y and Z", and I find that this approach misses the boat in several respects. First, it constrains you into the box of "recipes I already know", which might guarantee successful execution of a meal but gets pretty boring pretty quickly. Second, it commits you to particular ingredients regardless of price, season and sourcing: that caprese salad is just not going to be as good with mealy, watery, off-season Mexican tomatoes and cow's milk mozzarella, trust me. And third, it's just not economical: not only are you locked in to whatever price the main ingredients happen to be, chances are there's some minor ingredient that you a) don't already have, and b) won't use all of what you buy before it goes bad. That's just flat-up waste, and I hates it. But if instead of thinking about meals before you go shopping, you think of them after (or even during), you will be able to take advantage of 
    • fresher ingredients – just see what looks good!
    • better prices – buy stuff that's on sale or in season (which will be tastier, too), and
    • a broader, more interesting range of meals – coming home and thinking, "What am I gonna make out of this?" is fun, not terrifying! Especially when...
  • Don't be afraid to royally mess up a recipe. Not everything (either from a book or that you make up on your own) will work out perfectly the first time, so experiment and be willing to fail. If you know what you like, you can always correct it a bit and have a just-okay meal: the next time, it'll be great. Keeping always in mind,
  • DO NOT OVER-SALT. There is simply no excuse for it. In addition to being one of the absolutely easiest ways to make your meal healthier, you can always just add more salt when the food's on your plate. If you make a meal too spicy, you can correct that any number of ways, but too salty? Ruined. 
  • Know what you like. Interrogate your tastes, and be okay saying to yourself both "I really like X" and "I just don't like Y." There's nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into a meal that you know in your heart you aren't really going to enjoy. Okay, there are a lot of things worse than that, but regardless, just be okay with what you like.
  • Don't be afraid to cook richly. I don't hate on cooking light or healthy, but there are degrees of appropriateness. Cooking vegetables in olive oil and serving over brown rice? Delicious. Substituting canola oil for butter and still expecting your cream sauce to come out right? Unlikely. Rich food, while not an every-day thing (at least if you're trying to maximize the number of days you're around), is with us for a reason: it tastes incredibly delicious. So make it, and eat it, in its proper proportions. When you cook risotto, you can see for yourself how much buter and cheese is absorbed by those wonderful little kernels of rice, so don't eat the whole damned bowl. Relatedly,
  • Use and serve smaller plates. If food is threatening to spill off your plate, you've served too much. Get dinner plates that aren't XXL: they take up less space, and even filling your plate you'll eat less. If you're genuinely hungry after finishing, you can always take more – if you don't feel like finishing your plate, you can always put it in the fridge for later. Really, it's okay.
  • Always be on the lookout for good cookware. Good pots and pans matter, but this shizz is expensive. So go to thrift stores and keep an eye on Craigslist for good stuff – genuinely good cookware will last you potentially decades, so it's always worth picking up if the price is right. I suppose if you actually have money you could just go out and buy it, but what's the fun in that?
And, a particular pet peeve of mine:

  • Don't buy mid-market beer.  If it's a cheap-beer kind of night, get some PBR – not the worst thing ever, just like an occasional pack of Doritos won't kill you. But for the same reason that you wouldn't go to TGI Friday's, don't buy mid-market beer. Beer is food, and even top-end microbrews at $10-12 per 6-pack are not that expensive: still a lot cheaper than going out to drink. Given the exceedingly high level of quality available in US microbrews (the best beers in the world from top to bottom), the couple of extra bucks you pay are going to be well, well worth it in terms of taste. Especially if you're paying attention to the quality of the ingredients in your food, this is a no-brainer. This also does mean that I will definitely give you the stink-eye if you ever bring Beck's to my house.

Okay! That's probably enough for now. Go forth and do good!