Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter at the farmers' market II: fennel, apple, orange and pomegranate salad

It tastes as good as it looks,
and it's easy and inexpensive to make.

Same meal as last post, same 6 guests and same idea: do with what I find at the farmers' market. I wanted something a little refined to counterbalance my hearty detox chorba. Pas de problème: fennel, orange and apples are in season and go perfectly together. I added pomegranate seeds for a touch of color. Added value: all those fruits and veggies are very good for you, full of antioxydants, minerals and vitamins. Exactly what you need in winter, especially during the holiday season, when you always end up eating too much, too sweet (mmmh! those vegan truffles!), too oily (oh, those vegan latkes...), or too processed.

Fennel, Orange, Apple and Pomegranate Salad
(serves 6)
1 big bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (I used my mandoline)
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 pomegranate, seeded
2 oranges, juiced
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
A few fennel leaves for decoration

Mix everything together and adjust the salt and pepper. With a pair of scissors, cut some fennel leaves on top of the salad.

- If you can't find pomegranates, use a colorful fruit, such as a blood or cava cava orange.
- For a more fennelly taste, incoprporate to your salade a bigger quantity of leaves, scissor cut in tiny pieces.
- If you are lucky enough to have found a fennel bulb with branches and leaves still attached (and not cut out before store display) don't discard them: fennel leaves are good for you! They have a positive effect on your apetite, on your milk production (if you are lactating!), they help digestion and are full of antioxydants. You can make teas (infuse in hot water) or add to your food.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter at the farmers' market I: Detox Chorba

This will warm you up and make you smack your lips!

I went to the farmers' market this morning with the idea of getting what's in season to make a complete meal for me and my 5 lunch guests. I found a lot of fruits and veggies to play with.
I knew that I wanted a break from holiday foods, and I had in mind to make a sort of "detox soup", warming, hydrating and detoxifying at the same time.
When I researched what spices were good for detoxifying puposes, I realized that, combined with the veggies in season, I would end up with something North African. I made what I call my "detox chorba", with couscous on the side.

It was a Proust madeleine moment for me: it reminded me of winters in Paris, when it's cold and grey outside, and you push the door of one of the numerous couscous cantinas. You and your friends take off coats, scarves and gloves and sit together at a formica table to eat a warm, tasty and colorful dish for a few euros. The steam blurs the windows and you are so thankful to be inside. You add extra harissa to your stew to warm you up from within.

There's nothing like steamy soup!

"Detox Chorba"
1/4 cup cooking oil (coconut, canola)
3 onions
soy sauce
5 celery stalks
3 carrots
4 cups of veggie stock
4 cups water
1/2 bunch of rainbow chard (or anything green -if spinach: add it at the end)
2 cups of crushed tomatoes*
1 tbsp sundried tomato flakes*
(you can substitute for 2 tbsp tomato paste, but I had frozen tomatoes from last summer in my freezer)
1 cup tomatoes, cut in chunks (I did find some at the market! But you can do without, or add a little more paste, or tomato flakes)
1 red pepper
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ras-el-hanout (a North african blend of spices with pepper, cardamom, mace, cayenne, ginger, fennel, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, lavender and dried rosebuds)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp harissa blend
2 tsp herbes de provence
2 tsp rosemary
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 inch of sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup roasted pinenuts
celery leaves
2 cups dried couscous (you can substitute for quinoa if wheat doesn't agree with you)
1/2 cup raisins
olive oil

In a big pot, caramelize the onions in coconut oil. Stir frequently. Add "detox" herbs and spices: rosemary, herbes de Provence (incl Oregano), turmeric, ras et hanout, harissa blend (don't overdo it: it's hot!), whole peppercorn and stir the whole thing (adding a little soy sauce or water if it starts sticking).
When the onions are cooked and taste sweet, add chopped celery, carrots, chards stalk, and red pepper. Stir.
When everything is a little soft (after 10 minutes), add stock and tomatoes. Put in the bay leaves, the chunks of ginger, the chard leaves and the garbanzo beans. (Add water if the soup is too thick). Bring it almost to a boil and then turn the heat down. Simmer. If you have a crockpot: transfer after 15 minutes and let your soup sit there. The longer, the tastier!

Couscous: (I do it the simple way: no couscous-cooker, no double-steaming or other culinary refinement) I cook it like rice. In a pot, mix couscous grains and raisins with a little bit of olive oil and double the volume of cold water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, turn the heat off and let the grains expand for 15 minutes. Once it is cooked, fluff it lightly with a fork.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Homemade cards

This, and a little imagination is all you need!

This is a very simple, creative and rewarding DIY project.
What you need: sturdy paper, a pair of scissors, or cutter+cutting board, glue sticks. and things to paste. I always shop for vintage books or magazines, and cut out cute/cheesy/funny illustrations.
I recently scored a couple of issues of National Geographic from the 50's, with many kitsch and colorful photos. You can also use old music scores, old photographs, etc...

The best thing to do is to make a bunch (have a card making party with friends, or do it on your own, it's relaxing) and stock them so you have them ready for all occasions. I like making cards on black paper and writing my greetings with silver or gold ink.

Nikki's cards
My friend Nikki just brought me this amazing Holiday/belated birthday gift: a bottle of fine vodka accompanied by an assortment of cocktail glasses on an fantastic lacquered tray, all found at a small town garage sale. (Now, here's someone who knows me well!)
She's a talented card maker, and she made this one out of recycled paper, on which she glued an ad found in her vintage Playboy collection, inherited from her dad.

So fancy...

Supplies (pens included): SCRAP, San Francisco
National Geographics: Community Thrift, San Francisco

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eco Wrapping

100% reused packaging looks pretty good!

For the holidays, I sent a package to my family in France. I was pretty excited about my low-impact wrapping. At Thrift Town San Francisco, I had purchased a huge used Xmas stocking with the intention of stuffing it with the gifts for my nieces and nephews (respectively 6, 6, 4, 4, 1 and one month old). We don't have the stocking tradition in France: instead, we place our shoes under the tree, and that's where Santa, or, rather, le père Noël, puts our presents. I figured the kids would find a giant striped, green, knitted Xmas stocking amusing and exotic.

I wrapped all my gifts in things that I had thrifted for the purpose. I collect all year round pieces of fabric, cute little bags, papers, etc. with the intention of giving them a second life. I also keep undammaged wrapping paper and ribbons. I store all this junk in a small paper bag, and I dig out when a gift needs wrapping.
I had once found a champagne-color, velvet scarf that looked very ugly in its original intent but that my eye saw as an elegant wrap, once cut to size and enhanced with (reused) ribbons.
I had also found, still at Thrift Town, a silky orange Chinese bag that looks pretty and can even be reused (as an underwear travel bag for instance).
The little tags that I attached were cut out of simple black paper that I had purchased at SCRAP, (Scroungers' Center for Reusable Art Parts), an amazing place which stores and sells for cheap office and art supplies that would have been discarded otherwise.
I also made a big collective card with the same black paper, on which I glued an ad from an old issue of National Geographic. Very cute.

I always keep a supply of "things I can make cards with": pages of old magazines and books, thick paper and glue. Making your own cards is much cheaper, much greener, and much more creative than buying commercial cards.

I sent my package in a reused cardboard box (of course!).
Et voilà!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Congee

Winter breakfast congee

Congee or Kanji is a pan Asian comfort food. It's a simple fare of overcooked rice, a sort of porridge, eaten sweet or savory. It is the easiest thing to digest, and what babies and the sick eat.

I first made congee when Jill, my acupunturist-Chinese doctor suggested that I fed it to my bowel-troubled dog. I had just found Chloe the Pitbull on my birthday, lost in a big city park. She had been eating whatever she could scavenge. The effect on her intestines was not pretty (-and she was not potty trained).

Chloe, the sick pitbull
(feeling much better after a good dose of TLC -and congee.)

Being a great fan of rice, I decided to make a big batch of congee and to try out some recipes for myself.
I made soup and breakfast porridge.

How to make congee?
1 mesure of rice
5 mesures of water
Cook until mushy (it can take several hours on a stovetop -if you want it faster, put less water).

Breakfast congee for cold mornings
This is perfect if you are sick or need to go out in the cold. You get complete protein with the rice and lentils, and your good fats with the coconut oil.

(1 person)
1 cup congee
1/2 cup cooked coral lentils (reduced to a mush)
1 inch ginger, grated
1/2 apple, grated
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp salt
Heat everything in a covered pot. Adjust salt or agave nectar.
You can make it with a banana, and add spices that you like (cinnamon).
It's also a good idea to cook it with dried fruits such as raisins.

Congee soup for 2
2 cups of congee
3 cups of vegetable broth
2 cup of water
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup of carrots, diced
1 cup of chard leaves, sliced
1 inch ginger
wheat-free tamari

Cook shiitake in 2 cups of water for twenty minutes (bring to a boil and then simmer).
In a pot, cook congee, broth, carrots and chards.
When the mushrooms are ready, add their broth (dashi) to the pot. Slice the shiitake thinly (discard the stem), and add to the preparation.
Add tamari to taste (depending on if your broth is salty or not).
Grate ginger and add to the pot.
Cook until the carrots are soft.

Congee with red cabbage

A great side dish for winter.
Red cabbage is a traditional winter vegetable. Cooked with fruits (I chose apples and dried apricots) it is more festive (it is for instance a Spanish and Russian Christmas dish).

for 3 portions
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 shredded red cabbage
1 apple, thinly sliced
3 dried apricots, in small cubes
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or balsamic)
2 tbsp tamari

Cook onion on medium heat in coconut oil until translucent. Lower heat and add tamari. When onions are brown, add cabbage, apple, cubed apricots, nutmeg. Mix well, and cook, covered on medium-low heat. When cabbage starts to soften, add vinegar. When it is soft but still a little crunchy, add congee (1 to 2 cups), adjust tamari and vinegar, mix well and cook until desired consistency.

Read more about Congee here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Style: Shauna Moustache

Graphic designer and artist Shauna Moustache has been known to be stopped on the streets of her San Francisco neighborhood by visitors wanting to take photos of stylish and hip Mission dwellers. An eye for unconventionally tasteful outfits and a desire to make this world a more esthetically pleasing place make this Iowa native a prime candidate for Progressive Pleasures. And guess what? She's also a vegetarian, an urban biker, a composter, a recycler extraordinaire, a DIY master with a green thumb -and she makes the most delicious pad thai.

Which are your favorite pieces and why?
Tough question. My favorite furniture items are probably my antique bed frame, which I purchased from Zonal in Hayes Valley, and my loveseat, which I got from Mickey's Monkey in the lower Haight. The loveseat came with matching arm covers that my Grandma made into pillows.

Sofa Mickey's Monkey: shoes: Painted Bird; Peacock: Mickeys' Monkey

I got my favorite pair of boots from a vintage store in Brooklyn. I spotted them in a window display and it was love at first sight. It took me a day of internal reflection to overcome their sticker shock, however, proof that used doesn't always mean cheap.

Pants : Painted Bird, Shirt: Thrift town, Boots: Beacon's Closet, Brooklyn, NY

About a year ago I found a bag with oversized sheet music printed on the front and back. It was in great condition when I bought it and has since deteriorated with my love and daily use.

What percentage of your wardrobe is used?
80%? I tend to buy underwear, socks, and pants new. The majority of everything else that I own …including furniture, kitchenware, and decorative items… is used.

Shauna's colorful closet

Why do you shop used?
• Hunting for amazing, unique items is fun
• To support establishments that save amazing, unique items from going to the dump
• Old stuff is made better
• No wasteful packaging
• To lower the harmful production of items that already exist
• It's more affordable
• You don't have to deal with nasty food courts, teenagers, or a nauseous mixture of perfumes

"The record player was my dad's in the 70's!"

Do you use stuff for other purposes?
I drink wine out these adorable little non-wine glasses that I bought used in Shasta (CA). The guy who worked there said that the glasses were originally jam containers. Reusable packaging!

Hiking in style (flannel from a flea market in Berlin, Germany)

Do you mend or discard?
Finding an amazing article of clothing and having to leave it behind because it doesn't fit is a common thrifting scenario. I got a sewing machine to fix this problem. If I don't love an item enough to alter it within a few months I try to find it a new home. If it's just a hole or a missing button, I mend.

Where do you shop?
The Alemany flea market is a gold mine. And if you can mask your excitement about the unbelievably low prices, you can typically bargain for cheaper.

I mostly shop at Thrift Town, Mission Thrift, Clothes Contact, and The Painted Bird. They all have their own unique charms and are walking distance from my house. Mickey's Monkey and The Apartment are my favorite non-clothing, second-hand shops. I also love stumbling upon the garage sales that pop up in the Mission every weekend.

Do you have a favorite city or town for vintage/thrift store shopping?
Thrifting in small towns is one of my favorite things to do on road trips. Small town thrift stores are very hit or miss but they are always less expensive and picked over than ones in the city. Plus, you can get a pretty good sense of the town by seeing people's second-hand items.

Small town score

My favorite city to thrift in is Portland (OR). The Bins is the mother ship of the Goodwill there and if you have the patience to sift through mountains of unorganized castaways, you can leave with treasures that cost a buck a pound.

What are your suggestions for recycled gift ideas?
When I lived in Portland (OR), my friends and I would host "naked lady" parties. These were potluck-style gatherings where we would bring all of our amazing clothes that we'd never wear again and place them in a pile on the floor. Then we would simultaneously attack the pile, quickly trying on potential new items before all of the good stuff was gone.

When everyone finished, we would eat and go around the room displaying our finds and learning stories about the item from the previous owner. We would donate all of the leftover clothes to a local women's shelter.

What are your tips to earn karma points?

I think being mindful about how your personal consumption impacts the environment is a good start. Some suggestions are: buy organic food (it lowers the amount of pesticides going into the earth and your body), shop local (it decreases the petroleum used to transport goods and supports your neighbors), bring your own to-go containers when you shop and eat out, compost, share, bike.

You can admire Shauna's work on her website and you can run into her on Saturday mornings at the Noe Valley Farmers' Market, purchasing organic goodies from Happy Boys Farm.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ethical Giver: Homemade Spreads

Make a big batch of spread (hummus, veggie pâté, baba ganoush, tapenade... You can find recipes here) and fill cute reused/thrifted jars with it. Give those around as a presents.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Summer Splendor

It's the end of the Indian summer in San Francisco. In order to give a last hurrah to those colorful, beautiful summer vegetables that gave me so much pleasure all summer long, I had a Goodbye Summer apéritif party.
Apéritif, a French word which means "stimulate the appetite", consists of snacks and drinks before a meal, not unlike Spanish tapas. For a simple apéritif, you nibble on little things like nuts, olives, crackers, for a more elaborate one, you have an assortment of amuse-bouche, spreads, small salads. There are specific aperitif drinks like Pastis (an anise-flavored liquor typical of the south of France), but you can also drink wine, liquors and martinis.
I chose to make apéritif dînatoire, a big casual dinner, out of it. To do this, just lay everything out on a table in your nicest dishware, whip out the fancy silverware, and let your guests enjoy.
Bon appétit!

Grilled fennel and apple in orange marinade
Double layered potato with Cannellini bean-caper purée
Orange and Green soups:
Carrot ginger soup, Zucchini-anise soup
Assorted spreads :
Hummus, Baba Ganoush,
Kalamata-Red Pepper Tapenade
Tomato pesto
Tomates à la Provençale
Tomates en crudités
Zucchini linguini
Basil Peaches

Grilled fennel and apple in orange marinade
Grilled fennel and apple, carrot ginger soup, zucchini anise soup

This was a hit, and it looked very pretty.

1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tbsp pastis
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Add the thin slices of apples and fennel. Let soak for at least 30 minutes, but you can also leave it all day.
Arrange fennel flat on a baking pan. Top each slice with a slice of apple. Drizzle with remaining marinade.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350˚.
Present the dish on a large flat plate, and, for decoration, add small fennel leaves.
You can eat it hot or cold.

Double layered potato with Cannellini bean/caper purée

2 yellow potatoes
1 long orange-fleshed sweet potato (yam)
2 tbsp capers
1 1/2 cups Cannellini beans
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Cut all the potatoes in 1/5 inch slices. Align the sweet potatoes slices in a flat oven dish. Top with potatoes slices. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend together the ingredients for the purée.
When the double layered potatoes are baked, align on a flat dish and top with a dollop of bean spread.

Orange and Green soups
These two colorful soups were a great addition to the dinner. You can enjoy them cold, but I preferred them warm. I presented them separately, one in a small martini glass, one in a simple small glass, but you can also pour both soups in the same glass, without mixing them, for a beautiful bi-color effect.

Carrot ginger soup
1 lb sliced carrots
1 cup onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp chopped ginger
5 cups vegetarian broth or water
2-3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp oil

In the oil, put carrots, onions, ginger and celery. Sauté until soft. Add 5 cups of broth/water, heat, but don't reach boiling point, then simmer for 20 minutes. Blend in food processor until creamy. When serving, add lime juice.

Zucchini anise soup
4 medium size zucchini
1 medium size potato
1 tbsp of ground anise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cups of water
Cut potatoes and zucchini in small squares. In a pan, cook all the ingredients in water, until everything is mushy. Blend with a hand blender.
NB: you can also add Pastis for a more anise-ey flavor.

I love making batches of spreads and keeping jars of homemade hummus, baba ganoush, tapenade, etc. in my fridge to eat for breakfast, and any time I need a quick fix. I also use them in lunch sandwiches, or bring them at picnics or potlucks…
Offer them around in cute second-hand jars and your friends will love you forever.

Adapted from Didi Emmons' Vegetarian Planet (one of my favorite cookbook)

The good thing with bean spreads is that if you combine them to cereals (a slice of bread, a rice cracker…) you have complete protein, which means you can keep those muscles of yours nice and strong.
It's also delicious with apples.

2 tablespoons tahini (raw or made with toasted sesame, depending on your taste)
2 tsp minced garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups garbanzo beans
1/3 cup lemon juice (or more, if you want like it citrussey, I often press one lemon and one lime)
2 tbsp minced shallot
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp ground sumac
½ salt (if the sumac is mixed with salt, cut the salt that the recipe calls for)
1/3 cup water (or less, depending on how thick it is)
Purée in blender until creamy.

Baba Ganoush
Easy and delicious
1 large eggplant
1 ½ tahini
1 large garlic clove
1/3 cup minced shallot
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
½ smoked salt
¼ pepper
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
Bake eggplant in oven (cut in half, pierce skin, and bake face down on a slightly oiled pan until soft. It might take 50 minutes, or more. I like to bake it in advance (the day before, in the morning…) so I don't have to wait there until it cools down.
Mix everything except eggplant in blender. Add eggplant, mix well. The taste can be a little strong and disappointing at first, but let it sit and you wont believe it.
(You get MANY social points with this one.)

Kalamata-Red Pepper Tapenade
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and cut
1 red peppers
1 Tbsp. capers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Pepper, to taste

Bake red pepper in the oven at 350 for about ½ hour. When it's limp and can be peeled off easily, take off the skin. Cut in strips.
Combine all the ingredients, in a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined.
(I found this recipe here)

Oven baked tomatoes: 2 recipes
Tomates à la provençale and Tomato pesto.
12 firm tomatoes (early girl, roma…)
Herbes de provence
Olive oil

Additional ingredients for the pesto:
4 cloves of garlic
½ cup of pine nuts
2 tbsp of nutritional yeast (for cheesy taste and creamy texture)

Preheat oven at 300. Cut tomatoes in half and dispose, cut side up, on a large, oil-coated oven pan. Add 2 garlic cloves. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake for an hour, but take out the garlic after 30 minutes.

Use half of the tomatoes for the pesto. Let them cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, roast the pine nuts in an oiled pan. Mix all the ingredients: roasted and raw garlic, roasted pine nuts, tomatoes and nutritional yeast in an electric blender.

Serve the tomates à la provençale, hot or cold, flat on a plate.

Zucchini linguini
This is simple, delicious, pretty, and pleasantly crunchy.

4 zucchini
salt, pepper
olive oil
1 lime

With a peeler, peel the zucchini lengthwise, to the core, into thin, long strips. Sauté these in a pan, in several batches, one handful at a time, adding salt and pepper to taste. If you don't want to use too much oil, you can throw in some water (not much) to finish the cooking process. They will stay crunchy (if you don't overcook them).
You can eat them warm or cold.
Drizzle with a little lime juice.

Mixed heirlooms tomatoes

Slice tomatoes of different kinds and colors, arrange on a plate and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar (optional) and basil leaves.
I grew up fed on garden vegetables and cannot eat those bland things shamelessly sold as "tomatoes" without feeling depressed. Some California farms, thankfully, grow heirloom tomatoes, very ancient varieties, which are so good that the best way to savor them is raw. Sprinkle with sea salt and balsamic if you wish, and do not forget the olive oil: fat allows your body to absorb lycopene.

Basil peaches
5 juicy peaches
2 tbsp Agave syrup
½ cup water
10 basil leaves, cut in small strips
Cut basil leaves in small strips (Roll up the leaves and slice). In a small pan, heat up water and agave syrup. Cut peaches in pieces. In a big bowl, mix all ingredients. Let sit in the fridge for at least ½ hour, serve cold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Raw day! Ginger Lingui-veggie Salad

Lately, I have been into veggies cut in linguini-like shapes. It makes for a beautiful, original presentation, and it is pleasant to eat.
Basically, you chose a long vegetable (carrot, cucumber, zucchini) and, armed with a peeler, you shave it horizontally until you are left with a pile of long, and soft-but-crunchy bits. You can also use leafy greens: just cut long strips in the leaves (flatten the leaves on the cutting board, take the hard stem out, and run your knife through the green part.).
This salad is a result of this current shape obsession.

For better results, let it marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator. I usually let it sit for a whole night. The veggies soak and taste delicious, and they don't get soggy, but remain good and crunchy.

1 cucumber and 1 tsp of salt
A bunch of leafy greens (chards)
2 long carrots
1 cup of mixed nuts and dried fruits/berries*
4 shiitake mushrooms
mixed sesame seeds

1 1/2 inch ginger, peeled
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp miso
1 tsp tamari
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp rice vinegar
½ tsp agave nectar
2-3 drops of hot sauce

With a peeler, shave the cucumber lengthwise to make long, soft strips. Put in colander and mix with 1 tsp of salt. After at least 30 minutes, rinse the salt with cold water and press to eliminate all water.
Shave the carrots just like the cucumber and cut the chard leaves into long strips. Take the stem out of the shiitakes and cut them into strips. Add cucumbers, nuts, dried fruits, and sesame seeds. Mix.
Liquify miso paste into a tbsp of water. Mix all the liquids in a bowl. Grate the ginger and add to the sauce. Mix well and pour over salad. Mix well, and let it marinate for at least an hour.

Put it on a plate and sprinkle it with a blend of sesame seeds.
I accompanied it with a zucchini carpaccio (slices of raw zucchini marinated in a balsamic-garlic-olive oil dressing) and slices of heirloom tomatoes and avocado (sprinkled with the same balsamic dressing).**

It was delicious, my guest was really excited about all the nuts and the dried raisins and berries saturated with the gingery dressing.
Popularity points: +4.
Karma points: +4.5 *** All of this was organic, I biked to the store, I didn't use energy for cooking, and most of the ingredients were local (it's easier for foodies to have good green karma in California!), but some stuff came from far away like the hunza goji berries, and probably the almonds (since you can no longer sell unpasteurized almonds in California, these raw nuts had to be imported from somewhere else), the Mirin, I guess... But it's a pretty good score!

*make your own mix according to your tastes. I chose a ready-made raw trail mix sold in bulk at Rainbow Grocery. If you want to make it a raw salad, make sure your nuts are not roasted.
** The salad was Asian-inspired and the sides were Italian. It's pretty but next time i'll make sure I have a coherent theme and include something more in tune, like green papaya strips with peanut sauce...
*** Karma points go from -5 (negative karma, you'll burn in hell, get reincarnated into a battery chicken or get dumped really bad) to +5 (total holiness!).

Style: The cook-poet and her wardrobe.

Yasmin is a San Francisco-based poet, comic book artist and cook. Her tasteful aesthetics are reflected in her wardrobe, her living environment, her graphic art and her cuisine, a subtle mix of flavors and colors, that please the eye and the palate.

Meet the keeper of Grand Canyon dresses, American Pride dessert plates, vintage Rolodexes and very un-PC books.

Yasmin and her second-hand kitty, Parsnip the Little Cashew.
Shirt: Thrift Town; Jeans: Crossroads; Princess bed: Craigslist

Which are your favorite pieces, and why?
I have several favorite pieces.
I love my mermaid scarf, a memorabilia from an aquatic show in a theme park in Florida, in the 50's. The scarf illustrates the different numbers in the show, and ladies in bathing suits posing as mermaid. It looks really gay. I found it at a thrift store in Berkeley. I have hung it in every place I've lived for the past ten years.
The amazing Mermaid Scarf

Florida mermaids

I guess I have geographic inclinations: I have a growing collection of state plates and an amazing, hand-sewn, Grand Canyon dress, probably made from a sheet or curtain fabric.

Proud to be a State plate

Proud to be a crock pot owner
Grand Canyon Dress: Mars, Berkeley

I also have an original 1950's UC Berkeley library card catalog, that I bought from a furniture maker who buys old items and refurbishes them. I was going to use it for art, but now I want to keep it as furniture. I also love vintage Rolodexes, that I use for art projects, or as decorations.

Books, vintage Rolodexes,
and a library card catalog purchased via Craigslist.

My bicycle was also bought used for very cheap and a friend did some work on it.
And last but not least, my favorite piece is my second-hand kitty, Parsnip the Little Cashew, a former stray cat who was saved from the pound.

Yasmin and her used bike.
Sweater and shoes: Thrift Town, San Francisco
Collar: Montreuil flea market, France

I love finding old, out of prints, nicely-made, books. Books written in a particular moment and wouldn't be considered interesting by today's standards. Books from the 1910's, the 1940's, are interesting time capsules. The content is very colonial, outrageously not PC but funny to read. I own "I went to the Soviet Arctic" by Ruth Gruber, "Our wonderworld", a 1918 textbook about the world and its peoples, written in a very colonialist way, "Vogue's book of etiquette", a 1948 manual on how to talk to servants and shoeshine boys.
"For men lonely" (1947), a guide to twelve women's colleges, how to harass and pickup on women who chose to go to college.
"The modern home medical adviser", mostly for women, about taking care of their family. There is weird stuff about sexuality and masturbation, homosexuality, but also tuberculosis.

What percentage of your wardrobe is used?
I would say 75%.

The cook in front of her second-hand stove and salvaged cast iron pan,
wearing an embroidered gingham shirt.

Why do you shop used?
I find nice, well made clothes for less expensive. The vintage pieces I find are very well sewn, from the 50's, in a very nice fabric. They don't fall apart, they last. They are inexpensive, but not cheaply made.

Yasmin at her salvaged desk,
drinking tea out of her vintage dish ware.

Her comic book, Maid's Room, is an illustrated poem about Paris' minuscule servants' bedrooms and their dwellers.

Do you use stuff for other purposes?
My books are for research and inspiration purposes for writing, I get a sense of a certain writing style.
I make new clothes out of old clothes, like this collar that I made from a recycled sweater, when I was living in Paris. I needed new clothes but was too poor to buy anything, so I made them.

Do you mend or discard?
Things that need repair, I try to repair or take it to a seamstress, if it's an important piece.

Sweater and scarf: Goodwill.

Where do you shop?
I go to Thrift Town, which I find cheap and interesting, mainly for clothes and cookware. I also like Goodwill. I sometimes go to Crossroads, for work clothes. I found my Grand Canyon dress at Mars, in Berkeley.
I found interesting pieces, like my State plates, at garage sales.
For furniture, Craigslist or the streets have provided me with invaluable treasures.
For art supplies, I shop at Urban Ore in Berkeley, Scraps in San Francisco (Scrounger's Center for Reusable Art Parts), or the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, in Oakland.

Yasmin's chocolate love cake, on a plate bought at a garage sale.

What are your suggestions for recycled gift ideas?
I reuse paper for cards or wrapping. I also buy used cake pans and bake my friends' birthday cakes.

What are your tips to earn karma points?
Two of my everyday choices to be environmentally responsible are:
1. Riding my bike to run errands rather than taking public transit or borrowing a car. Even though sharing a car and riding public transit are already steps in the right direction, when I ride my bike I get exercise and burn no fossil fuels.
2. Borrowing and lending. We don't need to own one of everything. It's more economical and environmentally responsible to share something useful than buy your own. For example, a car, a book, a large cooking pot, gardening tools, camping equipment, etc. -- when you're not using them, someone else could be. When we share and lend eachother things for free, we lessen our own consumption in the process.
The public library is a great example of responsibly sharing resources, and on an individual basis we can do the same with our friends and property. The key is making sure we return things in the same condition we borrowed them, so that people will trust one another.

Yasmin runs a catering business, Calico Pie, an ethical, green-based business that supports sustainable agriculture, small businesses, fair wages, and good food. You also can taste her fine cooking at San Francisco's Queer Food For Love dinners.
Yasmin's comic books can be found in San Francisco boutiques: Needles and Pens, the Curiosity Shoppe, or online, on

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Ethical Giver

Ideas and tips for creative, progressive, low impact and thoughtful gifts.

This idea comes from Yasmin (read her interview in the Style section):
"I reuse paper for cards or wrapping. I also buy used cake pans to bake my friends' birthday cakes".

Yasmin's chocolate love cake, on a plate bought at a garage sale.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Where to shop? San Francisco

Thrift Town 2101 Mission St (@17th)
Community Thrift 623 Valencia St (@17th)

Mission Thrift
Painted Bird
Shauplatz (791 Valencia, bet. 18th and 19th)
Idol Vintage (3162 16th St)

-All along Haight Street

Work clothes:
Buffalo Exchange
Crossroads (they have lots of stupid new stuff, though, so watch out)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Food: Japanese Dinner

Progressive Pleasure starts with an ultimate pleasure: food!

Cruelty-free, health-positive and planet-friendly cooking is a quintessential Progressive Pleasure: it is a harmless practice that gives joy to the cook and the eaters, unites people, is a DIY, creative activity, promotes ethical and sustainable agricultural practices, and it can adapt to any budget.

Valentine's day sushi (crédit photo: crumpart)

Here is a set of recipes for a full Japanese dinner that I made for a few friends on Valentine's day.
Of course, this Japanese-inspired dinner that will amaze your friends (that's what you're after, right?) can be made all year round. I started having Sushi For Valentine's last year, and I decided to make it my tradition. I love traditions and rituals when they don't involve cruelty or narrow-mindedness. And tradition is also a good way to cut decision-making time.
-My Valentine's day is pretty non conventional, by the way, it's more of an excuse to get together with dear friends in various states of significant other-ness, and to bake heart-shaped cookies.

Bonus: Leftover Makeover! For you 9-to-5ers, bring the leftovers to work in a lunchbox and blow your office mates' minds! It feels so good to be praised for your cuisine. I love when skeptical non-vegans drool over my bowl.

I prepared this meal in the course of 3 days, a little bit each day.

Menu :
-Japanese soup
-Seaweed salad
-Pickled cucumbers
-Roll-you-own sushi
(stuffing : shiitake mushrooms,
cabbage, steamed and raw vegetables,
marinated baked tofu, baked eggplant)

-Dips and sauces

Accessories: make a thrift store trip to your favorite outlet and score a few small bowls (for dipping sauces) and flat plates, as well as cute fabric napkins.
Bamboo sushi rollers are really convenient, but I did not have any, so I used fabric napkins.
Accompaniment: wasabi and marinated ginger.
For the sushi, you will need seaweed (nori) wraps, and some additional raw veggies (carrots and cucumbers cut in fine strips, avocado...) if you feel like it.

Mirin, rice vinegar, nori sheets and makisu

To drink, sake is appropriate. If you like it hot, you can heat it in a microwave (on low) or on the stove, in its bottle or ceramic container, in a pan full of water, Bain-Marie style. You may also want to drink Japanese beer or, simply, green tea.

Order of preparation: Start with the dishes which need to marinate for a while, and the elements required in the making of other things (like soup stock). It's convenient to be able to do a little bit each day, and to not have to prep everything the day of. Not everybody can dedicate a big chunk of their day to cooking. Some of us do have jobs and stuff, if only to support their expensive fine cooking and dinner-throwing habits...

Day one:
Dashi Stock
Dashi is the Japanese version of soup stock. The most commonly used dashi is non-vegetarian (miso soups in restaurants generally use fish dashi), but actually, many ways of making traditional dashi are cruelty-free. (Yes, you can be traditional AND progressive at the same time!). You should start this whole dinner preparation with dashi, for you will need it in several preparations.

Proportions: one large mushroom per cup of water (I needed dashi for several preparations, so I made 5 cups.)
5 cups water
5 large dried shiitake mushrooms
Put water and mushrooms in a cooking pot. Soak the mushrooms for 30 minutes (less if you're short on time). Turn the heat on and bring to a boil. Turn heat off and let it sit for 30 minutes. Voilà! Put aside. Keep refrigerated. (And don't discard those shiitake mushrooms! They're for later.)

Sesame-seaweed salt
In stores, they sell you readymade "rice seasoning" or gomasio, which is good, but the organic version is inevitably expensive, and they always include roasted sesame seeds, and I like 'em raw, they have more nutrients. I just buy the ingredients in bulk, mix my own seasoning and keep it in a cute glass jar.

raw sesame seeds of several hues
seaweed flakes
sea salt
Mix in a jar, in proportions that suit your taste (seaweed is already salty, so adjust to your liking) and sense of aesthetics (I like the mix of colors). Make a big batch and keep the jar in your fridge to use for everyday seasoning. Sprinkle on top of your stir-fries, salads or plain looking dishes. It will add beauty and nutrients to your meals.

Pickled cucumber
You can make these several days in advance. It's so good you could be tempted to eat it all before D Day…
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced (use the blade on your grater or food processor, or a thin mandoline)
salt (to sprinkle on cucumber and drain water out)
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2, 3 drops of hot sauce
1 ½ tbsp sesame-seaweed seasoning

Place cucumbers in a colander, sprinkle with salt, mix, and let sit for ½ hour.
Rinse under cold water to remove salt. Press to squeeze out water.
Mix together rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
Pour over cucumbers, add strips of pickled ginger if you feel like it. Sprinkle with the sesame seaweed seasoning. Mix and keep in fridge.
(You can add pickled ginger and a bit of pickled ginger juice for a more ginger-y taste).

Day two:
Wakame-rice noodles salad
3 Tbs Dashi
1 Tbs Soy sauce
3 Tbs Rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Mirin
1/2 oz Wakame seaweed, dried
1 handful of rice vermicelli
sesame-seaweed seasoning (to taste)

Soak the wakame in lukewarm water for 20 minutes. You can use it as is (if you want to keep the nutrients) or cook it on low heat for 10 minutes (in that case, use the wakame-flavored water, that now holds the seaweed's nutrients, as broth). Cook the vermicelli in wakame water for about two minutes (it's fast). Trim away any rough stems, then coarsely chop the wakame. Pour over dressing, and mix. Top with sesame-seaweed seasoning. (NB: this salad was delicious, but I found the seaweed hard to chew. Make sure your seaweed gets really soft, remove all coarse parts)

Dips and sauces:
Shabutare is a dipping sauce for shabu shabu, a traditional fondue dish in which food is cooked by being dipped in hot broth. I went a little fusion here and made shabutare a dip for makis... Scandalous! (The purists will have to forgive me.)

½ cup tahini
¼ cup miso paste (light in color)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ cup sugar, dissolved in ¼ cup boiling water
½ teasp garlic powder
a few drops of chili oil
½ teasp sesame oil
mix in blender

Tempura sauce: for tempura dips or any dipping purposes.
1 cup dashi stock
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin

You will marinate the tofu, bake the eggplant sticks and cook the cabbage strips in it.
This recipe is a variation on a marinade that I found in one of my inspirational books: Vegan with a Vengeance, by Post Punk Kitchen Mistress Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

1 cup mirin
6 tbsp tamari
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tsp Asian chile sauce (or spicy sauce)
a 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves of garlic
Chop garlic and ginger, mix all ingredients in bowl, or put everything in your food processor.

Marinated tofu strips
1 package of firm tofu, drained and pressed (let sit at the bottom of a colander with some weight on top)
Cut tofu into strips (thin enough to be stuffed and rolled in sushi). Pour marinade at the bottom of container, lay down a layer of tofu strips, pour more marinade on top, add another layer… Make sure all the tofu is covered and soaking. Refrigerate and let the tofu absorb the marinade.

There is much more marinade than needed for the tofu alone: you will also use it to bake the eggplant sticks and cook cabbage strips.

Day three
Baked eggplant strips
1 big eggplant, or 1 long Japanese eggplant
Pre-heat oven (350). Lightly oil a flat oven-safe pan. Cut eggplant in half, scoop out the middle, and cut in strips (small finger size). Dip strips in cooking marinade, align in pan.
Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Let cook 20 minutes, until eggplant is very soft.

Cooked cabbage strips
1/2 Chinese or white cabbage (keep the remaining half for later –cf Leftovers Makeover)
Cut cabbage leaves in thin strips, put in small pan and pour cooking marinade over. Cover with lid. Cook on medium heat, lid on, for 5 minutes. Take the lid off and simmer on low heat until most liquid is gone.

Mushroom stuffing
5 reconstituted shiitake mushrooms (from your dashi preparation)
5 fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup dashi
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs mirin
2 Tbs soy sauce
Remove the stems. Cut mushrooms into small strips. Mix liquids in bowl, pour over mushrooms in a small pan. Simmer until the liquid is almost gone.

Prepare it day of. Allow enough time to cool down.
You must get sushi rice, the kind that gets sticky. If it doesn't stick, you cannot make sushi.
Wash rice until water is clear. Put rice in pot, drown rice in water.
How to properly cook rice? I used to have problems with water/rice proportions and would always end up burning the pot… until a Chinese-American friend gave me her mom's tip. To know how much water should cover the rice, measure by putting the tip of your index finger on the rice: the water over the rice must reach your first knuckle (the one closest to the tip). It works all the time! Cover the pot, cook on high heat, bring to a boil, and then put on low for 10 minutes (don't open the lid!). Turn the heat off and let rice sit for another 15 minutes. (You can also do it in a rice cooker, but the metal container is usually made of aluminium, which, according to some, is not a safe cooking material)
Put your rice in a container that can close hermetically. Let cool, but not in the fridge, where it would dry. You don't want dry rice.

Clear soup
Soup is a common fare in Japan: miso soup, of course, soba and udon soups (with noodles, that you slurp straight out of the bowl!) but also clear soups. They are all prepared with dashi.
3 cups water
2 cups dashi (more would outpower the taste with shiitake mushroom flavor)
½ tsp mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 oz tofu cut into cubes
1 dried shiitake
1 oz mushrooms
veggies :1 small zucchini, cut in cubes, 1 carrot, cut in small cubes, some cabbage
1 scallion, thinly sliced
I thought it needed a little more taste, so I added ¼ cup of the liquid in which I had cooked the cabbage. Put in a pot all the ingredients together (except for the scallion), and cook until the veggies are soft but not mushy. Serve in bowl with sliced scallion on top.

Dessert: at Minako's, an organic, vegan-friendly Japanese restaurant in San Francisco's Mission district, they serve an orange-mint, agar-based sweet treat at the end of the meal. Agar is this seaweed that solidifies like gelatin, but is not made of bones. I never found any recipe for the Minako treat, so I tried to make my own. I have to say that it was not met with wild enthusiasm! Anticipating the effect of such a controversial fare, I had asked a guest to pick up some non-dairy green tea ice cream, and it was a good idea! I'm sure there are good agar desserts out there, but this attempt was not my most successful cooking endeavor!

Dinner time!

Your work station (photo: ici)

Place all you need to make sushi on a table or countertop and have your guests make their own rolls. Procedure: with tongs, roast for a second or two your seaweed on the stove, lay it flat on the bamboo sushi roller, cover with a layer of rice (but leave one inch, on one side, uncovered), put whatever stuffing you desire and roll! Cut the roll into six pieces with a sharp knife, and dip these pieces in whatever dip you fancy (it can also be plain soy sauce with wasabi).

No animals were harmed in the making of these very cute rolls
(Photo credit: here)

Leftover Makeover!
You probably didn't use all of your cabbage, so we are going to make Stuffed cabbage leaves.
I took this to a friend's the day after. It got me a: "If it's the way vegans eat, I understand why one can be vegan" from a certified, nonquestioning omnivore.

Bake whatever remaining vegetables (cut in thin slices or strips) in what's left of the tofu marinade. Just put everything in a casserole dish and cook on medium heat. Cooking time will depend on veggies and size of slices.
Stuff a raw cabbage leaf with rice and baked veggies and dip in leftover sauce.

Leftover shabutare: use it for any dipping purposes. It's an easy to make, crowd pleasing dip that will ensure you success at parties. You can also recycle this thick dip into a salad dressing by adding water, oil, soy sauce (to taste).

Leftover rice: if you put it in the fridge, it must be kinda dry. Just steam it for a few minutes, and you have a hot, moist, sticky rice. You can also stir-fry it with leftover veggies for a colorful fried rice dish.

Another satisfied customer...


Popularity points: 4,5. It was delicious, nicely presented and it was visible that I had put time and energy into this. It was nice for everybody to try out their maki-rolling skills.
Karma points: 4/4,5. Some things come were not made/grown locally (Mirin, algues...), but I biked to the grocery store! -And I celebrated love and friendship in a fun and unusual way, without buying into the commercial hysteria of Valentine's day.

The Post Punk Kitchen's vegan sushi
Just Hungry