Friday, October 30, 2009

Vegan Sushi w/Green Tomatoes, Yams + Mexican Hot Sauce; My Last Burger(?!?!); and a Macrobiotic Chef to Know

Seaweed is ridiculously good for you. Used with soy, it's proven to kill cancer cells, for one thing (and sugar grows them! who knew?), it's mineral rich, and it's the most nutritious vegetable on earth. 

"Good Health" = An Excuse to Eat More Sushi
When I decide to eat more seaweed for general good health, I'm thinking homemade vegan* sushi.

'Cause sushi is ridiculously delicious, and I'm in the mood to make up some crazy things.

This photo, btw, is of the amazing disappearing asparagus-avocado-green tomato-pickled jalapeno hand roll.

(*I'm  so  not vegan. I ate a giant hamburger last week. See? [Scroll 3/4 down page.] The best part is that I ate the giant (cheese, actually)burger after attending a vegan cooking lecture. Ha!

The lecture was a presentation by vegan macrobiotic nutrition consultant Roxanne Koteles-Smith, who cooked at the Ritz Carlton SF under celeb chef Sylvain Portay and trained at both the New England Culinary Institute [NECI] and the Kushi Institute. Woman has chops.

I know her how? Using a custom dietary regimen and supplements, she recently shepherded my elder cousin into complete breast cancer remission with no pain during chemo [an astounding achievement according to all of my cousin's doctors and nurses].

Seeing my very Southern cousin convert so gracefully to an all-organic/local, gluten-free, sugar-free, and cow/dairy-free diet was mega inspiring. [She turned me on to amazing treats like melty, tasty goat brie, too. YUM.]

Sooooooo, after hemming and hawing about changing in my fabulously eclectic diet for a more healthful one, I am going to start seeing her for consultations and I'm going to get healthy as cr*p. I figured I'd better squeeze in one last slab of cow!)

That said...

Vegan Homemade Sushi Is Tight!
Because you don't have to mess around with raw fish, and it's way cheaper

(After the initial investment, of course, in good wasabia japonica powder, nori seaweed sheets, brown rice vinegar, brown rice syrup [a smart substitute for sugar], mirin [rice wine], bamboo sushi rolling mats, good organic white short grain sushi rice [Lundberg!], good tamari [fancy wheat-free soy sauce], chopsticks, blah blah blah, pickled ginger [overkill if you ask me].)

Basically, if you go bonkers with the avocado and the spicy things, your rolls are going to rock, kindof no matter what.

Getting creative with veggies and condiments is the fun part. See that little monkey dish of yellow business up in the left corner of the photo above? Shaved Meyer lemon! Rind and all. Floral, sweet, lemony snicket.

Fun Times with Goofy Vegetables
We threw some green tomatoes in the Benriner mandoline slicer and marinated them in umeboshi plum vinegar. Oh, SNAP.

I baked a Mahon yam and sliced it into strips. Creamy.

Hit the cucumbers and the carrots with the Benriner too; my sweetie made us some swanky matchsticks!

Pickle Me This, Batman.
Sliced up some garlicky pickled jalapeno that I pickled myself! I used Karen Solomon's new book, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, as my guide.

(See those peppers? My stepmom and stepsister grew them thangs organically out of holes dug in haystacks, and fertilized 'em with cricket poop tea. Affectionately branded "Kricket Krap." Ahem. They are goooood!)

Anyway, Karen's pickle recipe is awesome! I highly recommend the book, reviewed this summer on Eat Me Daily.

And look, it is so attractive. Christmas gifting, yo! Check it out here.

Gather Ye Sesame Oils While Ye May
Even though our sesame oil's been in the fridge, it hasn't been touched in a year. It ain't rancid, but it's completely lost its yum, so the "sesame oil steamed spinach" trick I had planned wasn't really a hit, even with delicious homemade gomasio (pulverized roasted sesame seeds and salt -- also kept in fridge). Dang!

I was pretty pumped to make a spicy asparagus roll, all the same.

This one includes avocado, asparagus, slivered Meyer lemon, and carrots, with gomasio and a generous swath of specialness**.

Mexican Hot Sauce = Sushi Coup de Grace
We don't have any Sriracha or other Asian hot sauce in the frigo (yet), but I was kindof stoked to try my fave creamy-consistency Mexican hot sauces that I brought back with me from California.

**Salsa Huichol, you are my friend. Smooth, creamy, super warm spiciness from Tepic, Nayarit, MX. I heart you.

Oh, hi there, dark, rich, creamy, spicy Valentina Tamazula, made in Guadalajara, MX! You're my favorite. Don't tell Huichol.

Warm, Sweet, Vinegared Rice. Yum.
My friend Anne, a.k.a. The Shop Tart (if you haven't visited her on the world wide internet web, treat yourself) loaned me some mirin (rice wine) and her sushi cookbook, Sushi Made Easy, mainly for the rice recipe, but also for the rolling techniques, how-to photos, etc.

I like borrowing things from good friends; it creates an excuse to casually hang out when you give back whatever random thing you borrowed.

Oh and that rice recipe ROCKS! I will tell it to you if you ask, but the main bits are thus:
Rinse and drain your rice, like, 20 times til the water runs clear (ha!), drain it for an hour, bring to a boil w/2 1/2 cups water pound of rice, cover, simmer 5 min, simmer on super low for another 15 min, then let it sit steaming off heat, in pot, pot lid replaced by a tea towel for another 15 min. IS GOOD.

Ah, the finished product. Creamy, crunchy, spicy, savory. Dang!!

A sushi roll with steamed spinach, baked sweet yam, avocado, gomasio, hot sauce and carrot really does not hurt my feelings at all.

And for the record, there really is a difference between commercial wasabi powder (tinted horseradish + mustard powder) and the real stuff, made of harder-to-grow wasabia japonica.

It is subtle, vegetal, and sublime!

All I have to say is thank f-ing g-d for hand rolls. YUM.

Who even needs dessert with a hot little cone like that?

photos: TB

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kimpton Hotels: LGBT Discount, Dining & Spa Credits

I like it when my Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) peeps get shown love.

From Kimpton Hotels, a national boutique hotel chain w/outposts in NYC, SF, LA, Washington DC, Atlanta GA, Miami FL, AZ, CO, Chicago IL, MD, MA, Portland OR, Penn PA, Dallas TX, UT, VA, WA:

Enjoy 15% off your room rate, $20 daily dining credit and 30% off any in-room spa service on weekend.

Kimpton Says Relax! It seems that everyone is a little more stressed out these days, which makes your weekends even more valuable and important. So grab your sweetie, a friend or sneak away by yourself, and head to your favorite Kimpton hotel for a weekend to unwind. Simply use Rate Code LGBT and receive 15% off our best available rate (Thurs - Sun), a $20 daily dining credit that can be used for a fabulous dinner or breakfast in bed. And if you like -relax and rejuvenate with 30% off any-in room spa service during your stay.

Offer Details:

  • Book a weekend night and enjoy 15% off Best available Rate
  • Enjoy a $20 daily dining credit to be used at a Kimpton Restaurant
  • Plus relax with 30% off any in-room spa service during your stay
  • Ask for rate code: LGBT
  • For stay dates September 17, 2009 through March 28, 2010
  • Valid only for stays Thursday through Sunday nights

Daily rates vary by hotel and availability. Book online or call 1-800-KIMPTON and use the Rate Code LGBT


Thursday, October 22, 2009

New "Super Green" Seafood List from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

What to pick when you're buying seafood, from the nation's arbiter of sustainable seafood style, The Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Download your pocket/wallet-sized regional Seafood Watch List here:

The "Super Green List," republished from the Aquarium's website:

The Super Green List:

Connecting Human and Ocean Health
Seafood plays an important role in a balanced diet. It's often rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost immunity and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other ailments. Omega-3s are especially important for pregnant and nursing women, and young children. Unfortunately, some fish carry toxins that can become harmful when eaten frequently.

Good for You, Good for the Oceans

Combining the work of conservation and public health organizations, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has identified seafood that is "Super Green," meaning that it is good for human health and does not harm the oceans. The Super Green list highlights products that are currently on the Seafood Watch "Best Choices" (green) list, are low in environmental contaminants and are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

This effort draws from experts in human health, notably scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The Monterey Bay Aquarium will continue to work with these organizations to balance the health and environmental attributes of seafood.

The Super Green list includes seafood that meets the following three criteria:
  • Low levels of contaminants (below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb PCBs)
  • The daily minimum of omega-3s (at least 250 milligrams per day [mg/d])**
  • Classified as a Seafood Watch "Best Choice" (green)
*The Best of the Best: October 2009
  • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Mussels (farmed)
  • Oysters (farmed)
  • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
  • Pink Shrimp (wild-caught, from Oregon)
  • Rainbow Trout (farmed)
  • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
  • Spot Prawns (wild-caught, from British Columbia)

*Other Healthy "Best Choices"
  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Bay Scallops (farmed)
  • Crayfish (farmed, from the U.S.)
  • Dungeness Crab (wild-caught, from California, Oregon or Washington)
  • Longfin Squid (wild-caught, from the U.S. Atlantic)
  • Pacific Cod (longline-caught, from Alaska)

*The "Super Green" list is based on dietary requirements for an average woman of childbearing age (18- 45, 154 pounds) eating 8 ounces of fish per week. The list also applies to men and children; children should eat age-appropriate portions to maximize their health benefits while minimizing risk.

Other Healthy "Best Choices" are low in contaminants and provide a smaller amount of omega-3s (between 100 and 250 mg/d, assuming 8 ounces of fish per week)

Contaminant data are from EDF, drawn from more than 250 government databases and peer-reviewed scientific studies on seafood contaminants.

Omega-3 data are primarily from the USDA Nutrient Database.

**Assumes 8 ounces of fish per week; 250 mg refers to the combined level of two omega-3s of primary importance to human health: eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).

Note: My old buddy Cory McNair, who's a chef in Pawley's Island, SC, had a comment worth sharing:

"I would take this list with a grain of salt. It seems to sponsor a lot of west coast and Alaskan industries without regard to the efforts made in the southeast (on the SE sheet). US crayfish farming is nearly non-existent, they list Pacific Halibut as a fish to go for despite that its numbers are being depleted at a horrifying rate (to the point ... Read Morethat fishing moratorium talk keeps coming up). Though some fish do well in farmed environments (much rather have farmed tilapia than wild) I still am suspicious of the long term effects of farming many of the species they recommend (cobia? have you seen one? They are monsters, and need lots of swimming area.). I thought that it was interesting that wreckfish is the only Southeastern fish on the southeastern list that is recommended withouth concessions.
To be fair, I am looking at this as the SC legislature has been mulling over the idea of banning all commercial fishing of the Snapper/Grouper complex, including fishing charters. As an environmentalist, I hope they do it, as someone whose livelihood depends on these fish, I am worried.
In all, a good basic pocket guide for a consumer, but I hope that those that use this will care enough to look further into the various issues and problems in the industry, especially those that affect your immediate area."

Thanks Cory!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Top 5 Faves from the SC State Fair Parking Lot

All it takes is one stroll across the SC State Fair parking lot with an eye for vehicle adornment, and you can pick up some hot little socio-cultural gems. Here are my top five!

Dixie Girls. Perhaps they weep for racial injustice on the inside?

This pink Carolina Girl thing has really blown up lately.

I want to like it but I can't stop throwing up in my mouth.

I wonder if this person has a desk job for which they must behave in a modest, meek fashion, but come quittin' time, things really go flip!

It's like their church is the sun, rising and shining through a glittering stained glass portal to heaven.

Every time this person gets gas, I hope they bend down and flash themselves a huge, sh*t-eating grin in the side mirror while they pump the unleaded.

They would be completely justified in doing so, don't you think?

photos: TB

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Velvet Cake, Beavers, and a 166-lb Watermelon

I possess an unreasonable amount of nostalgia for the South Carolina State Fair.

It could have something to do with the incredible Fiske french fries. (My Dad's favorite.)

Fried fried with a side of Jesus, please! (Thank you.)

I get extremely pumped to go look at bunnies.

But, as is the case at most fairs I attend: the bunnies, like the birdies, are caged and unpettable.

Ran into my friend John in the Congaree Swamp exhibit, which is a weird replica of our local National Park, "the largest expanse of old-growth flood plain forest in America."

He was taking human interest shots of fairgoers for The State newspaper. I asked if he would please play "nature photographer" for me.

John is a good sport.

BTW, have you seen the half-hour IMAX movie about beavers? It's called BEAVERS and is completely mindblowing. It's on Netflix "Instant Watching" so treat yourself asap!

Beavers are industrious little machines. I've visited a bunch of SC lakes and ponds where the beavs have gnawed and toppled dozens of trees, leaving that cartoonish cone of chawed stump behind.

Our buddy Steven found a beaver skull in Lake Wateree recently; you should see the choppers on that thing!

Beavers are brilliant. I would like a beaver to build me a house someday.

2pm on a weekday: time to go look at the jams and jellies and crafts and stuff, while the crowds are still fairly thin.

(They had to outlaw beer at the State Fair because things were getting so rowdy during peak hours.)

Just the other day, my sweetie told me that loofah sponges are the insides of big, long squash-type vegetables, and that they grow here in SC.

Prize-winning peanut. (No more rhymes and I mean it.)

Peanuts are a big SC crop. These ones are quite large!

Not as big as this first place watermelon.

You heard of the craft known as Eggery? Now we know. EGGERY!! The word is printed on each of the little tags there:


There are some fiendish bits of bad in the home crafts show.

Seriously? A cross-stitch of a hobo clown? Please tell me his name is Patches.

And, um, WTF? Love the blue theme here.

On opposite day.

The decorated cakes are something else though. These ladies were super into the Best in Show winner...

..which was a pair of pointed toe high heels made of sugar and cake, with their own fancy box. Way to hit the judges in two soft spots: cake and shoes!

I find myself both grossed-out and totally drawn to this cake ensemble, fashioned to look like a burger and fry combo.

Truly impressed, on the other hand, with this cockroach cake. I don't understand why it didn't win top honors; it's AMAZING.

It's not a South Carolina cake contest if there's no red velvet cake.

An entire wall of fridges just for the refrigerated cake entries, yo.

(As well as a section for savory dishes all made with Spam. A Spam-sponsored mini-contest, of course.)

Yet more glass cabinets for the non-fridge cakes, cookies, cupcakes, breads, candies, rolls, and basically every humble variety of homemade dough in the state.

True fact: South Carolina is FIERCE about its cheese straws. This is just one shelf of entries.

Pickling is super hip these days in foodie circles, you might have noticed. I've been pickling from my colleague Karen Solomon's new book, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, and I'll report once the pickling has reached its zenith. Lots of key recipes in there, like ketchup, marshmallows, and homemade crackers. Nice.

You think SC takes pickling lightly? No ma'am. No sir.

Preserved, pickled, jarred, jammed, jellied, you name it.

We will find a way to make it keep forever.

This is made entirely of unleavened bread. A professor from the culinary institute in Charleston made it. Bucolic!

Time to go home and spend an indeterminate amount of time considering regrets over having gotten a corn dog from the wrong corn dog vendor. First, must appreciate the design elements of this commercial exhibit.

I didn't ride this elephant, because I feel bad about that whole exploited animal thing.

But what a sweet heffalump, no?

Going to go back to the fair next week and gonna get a corn dog from the right corn dog vendor (the "pronto pups" guy?) and take a look at the fine art and student art. I took a peek and there were lots of puppies and beach scenes.


photos: TB