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