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Archive for March, 2009

Veg News Recap

Some recent vegetarian-related stories on the interwebs…

Veggie kids, omnivorous dad: I’m a little slow in posting on this piece in Slate, written from the perspective of the Dad (and only omnivore) of a 4-member family. He takes great pains to dispel the concerns that normal meat-eating parents would have about veggie kids– will they be freaks? Will they get enough nutrition? (No, and yes.) My main objection is that he evaluates vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice the same way that, say, wearing jean shorts is a lifestyle choice. For me, being a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice in as much as not stealing is a lifestyle choice. He doesn’t seem to get that, and I find this is a common problem. And I know 99% of the world won’t agree but I do believe that in an American society where veggie protein sources are cheap, plentiful, and convenient, choosing to raise kids who eat meat is as morally wrong as choosing to raise your kids to steal. Yes, I’m sure vegans feel the same way about ovo-lacto vegetarians, and yes, I’m fine with that. I think now that I’ve stuck with it for 16 years, relatives and friends can finally stop asking “are you still vegetarian?” The people I like get a “do animals still feel pain?”; the people I don’t particularly care for get “yes, are you still [insert his/her religion here]?”

Crustaceans feel and remember pain: It pains me to be a Mainer sometimes, land of the mighty lobster. A new study from Queen’s University in Belfast shows that hermit crabs who received a shock when they went into one shell would move into a new shell, while crabs who were not shocked remained in their original shells. A second study by the authors showed that crabs showed less response to negative stimuli when given painkillers.  They believe that their studies go to show that crustaceans’ response to “negative stimuli” like having their legs ripped off are not merely reflexes but true reactions to alleviate pain.  On a side note, here’s a disturbing but fascinating piece from the late author David Foster Wallace called Consider the Lobster. It starts out like a fluffy Maine travel piece and then takes a very serious turn into the ethics of eating animals, describing the way lobsters die by boiling and the myriad of ways cooks try to deny what they’ve done (like claiming that lobsters’ brains don’t allow them to feel pain or leaving the kitchen so they don’t have to hear the lobster scratching at the sides of the pot).  It’s some seriously good reading.

Red meat intake increases risk of death from cancer and heart disease:  I consider this a “no shit” argument I’m pretty sure I heard 16 years ago when somehow I got a hold of some PETA literature (or some PETA literature got a hold of me).  This time around, in a 10-year study of a half million Americans aged 50 to 71, both men and women in the top 20% of meat consumption had a much greater risk of dying from cancer or heart disease than those in the lowest 20% of meat consumption. Still, there will always be naysayers like meatsafety.org, who choose to go after the source of the information instead of the info itself (like criticizing The Cancer Project as a “Vegan, Animal Rights Group”).  Did you know that meatsafety.org was started by the American Meat Institute, “the nation’s oldest and largest meat and poultry trade association”?

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Chow Mei Fun

chow = fried, mei (may)= rice, fun= thin noodles, sometimes called vermicelli.

This is an all-purpose, add anything dish. I always include some seitan for protein, and then the veggies are whatever is going bad in the fridge. My mom makes this dish with canned smoked oysters, which adds a nice flavor but I can’t endorse that 🙂

Ingredients:
1/2 of a 17.5 oz. package of mei fun, plus 4-5 cups water for soaking
3-4 black mushrooms
1/4 onion, sliced
1 can mock meat (seitan), drained
1/5 head of cabbage, sliced up
soy sauce to taste
black pepper
oil for stir-frying

Optional ingredients:
1 egg (beaten, fried in a patty, and sliced)
1 carrot (sliced thin or julienned)
snow peas
baby corn
chow mei fun ingredients
Start by soaking the mei fun in hot water (not warm but not boiling), and also soak the mushrooms in warm water separately. Keep an eye on the mei fun while you cook to make sure they do not get too soft, and make sure no parts of it are sticking out of the water. The mei fun should take about 20 minutes. If it’s still hard after 20 minutes, drain the water and reheat it, and then throw the mei fun back in.
soaking the mei fun
Preheat the oil and stir-fry the onions for a couple of minutes on medium, then add the cabbage and carrots. Allow to cook until the cabbage is no longer raw but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Cover if it gets too dry on the bottom. Add whatever veggies need to be cooked (snow peas, etc.) Once those are done, add the seitan, baby corn, and (sliced) mushrooms. Stir fry until they are hot, and sprinkle with pepper to taste.

Once the mei fun is al dente, drain it well and add to the veggies. Stir fry until the mei fun is hot, sprinkle with 1 tbsp soy sauce to start with and add more to taste. Mix thoroughly and serve.
chow mei fun

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Yard-long beans are called dau gok in Cantonese. They’re just like green beans but skinnier and longer, and with less flavor.   I think they’re used mainly for crunchiness.

I picked some up last weekend when I was in Houston for a wedding.  There was a brief period when the big Hannaford (Forest @ I-295) was carrying unlabeled Asian veggies– they were all the same price per lb and you had to know what you were looking for– but I guess they discontinued that because all the other Asians in Portland have their own restaurant or store and buy wholesale.  Anyways, the upshot is that I had to carry dau gok back from Houston.
dau gok
These two recipes epitomize what Cantonese like to do with veggies: (1) fry them in egg, and (2) stir-fry with garlic and soy sauce.  So, here they are:

Dau gok tzeen dahn (dau gok in fried egg)
1/4 pound yardlong beans, trimmed and chopped into pieces about 1/4 inch long
3 eggs, beaten
dash black pepper
soy sauce
oil for pan-frying

Pan-fry beans on medium for about 5 minutes. Disperse evenly throughout the pan and sprinkle with pepper. Add the egg, cover, and let fry undisturbed for at least 5 minutes. Once the top is solid enough to flip, cut the patty into halves or quarters and flip. Fry another 5 minutes, sprinkle with soy sauce, and serve.

dau gok chopped for both dishes

Dau gok with garlic and soy sauce
3/4 lb yardlong beans, trimmed and cut into 4 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic or shallots, minced
splash soy sauce or szechuan sauce (like San-J)
oil for saute-ing

Saute beans and garlic on medium for 5 minutes, covered. Stir, cover, and fry for another 5 minutes until beans are tender but not overly soft. Add sauce, stir, and serve.
dau gok with garlic
dinner

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I got a small cost-of-living increase (emphasis on small) last Wednesday so we decided to go to the Pepper Club Restaurant for dinner since it was Restaurant Week anyways. We went there over a year ago and the service was terrible (rude and slow) and the veggie options scant even though they are touted as a veggie-friendly restaurant. But the prix fixe menu for Restaurant Week had lots of veggie (and dessert) options and was a decent deal for $20.09 for an appetizer, entree, and dessert, so we decided to give it another try.

(from The Pepper Club)

We started with a shared appetizer, brie with apricot jam and crackers. It was delicious, although I’m pretty sure they just spooned some jam onto a brie wedge and broiled it a little. For his entree Elliott got the tempeh meat loaf, which was a little… mushy… to be called meat loaf. It tasted healthy, if you know what I mean. I got the quinoa stuffed peppers, which was an insane amount of food considering I was about done after the brie. It was also a little under-spiced. Needed some onion and garlic or something.

For dessert Elliott got the grapefruit tart, which I’m pretty sure was actually a lemon custard pie. I got the chocolate cheesecake, which was great but I left it out on the counter overnight and couldn’t bring myself to eat it after that. Anyways, unlike last time, our waitress was super nice but the whole dining experience took 1.5 hours, which is way too long for me to sit at a table with Elliott without a TV, computer, newspaper, or at least a radio. And I overheard the table next to us complaining that they had been there two hours (during their dessert).  Given, the restaurant was a taken over by visitors in town for the U.S. synchronized skating championships…but still, it’s Restaurant Week– a good time to make sure you are fully staffed, right?  So, in sum:

first experience: bad food, bad service
second experience: okay food, friendly but slow service

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When I have a recipe in mind, I usually look up more than one source just so I know what I can fiddle with and also so I can take the laziest route.  I had a little “taking off the rose-colored glasses” moment a couple of nights ago when I found a recipe I wanted to make from a book from the library and then I found a blogger that had passed of the book’s recipe, drawings, AND commentary of as her own!  And the blogger is a FoodBuzz Featured Blogger and has had over 2,000 visits PER DAY. I mean, this happens every so often on Allrecipes.com, but I think if you’re making money as a blogger and offering commentary, at the very least the commentary should be one’s own, right?

Anyways… chive dumplings…. right.

I adapted this recipe from “Dim Sum: the Art of Chinese Tea Lunch” by Ellen Leong Blonder. It normally calls for a filling of shrimp/chives or pork/chives inside a translucent dumpling wrapper based on wheat starch instead of wheat flour or rice flour. Note that you have to use Chinese chives— they have flat blades and are much bigger than regular chives. I substituted tofu for the meat and got 14 dumplings out of this recipe.

Ingredients:
1.25 cup wheat starch+some for dusting (available at Hong Kong Market on Congress)
1/4 cup glutinous rice flour or tapioca flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp vegetable oil

1 bunch Chinese chives (about 20 stems)
3 green onions
1 package tetrapak tofu, extra firm, drained
1 tbsp soy sauce (or 1/4 tsp better than bouillon)
1 tbsp sesame oil
chive dumpling ingredients

For the wrappers: mix the wheat starch and flour, add the boiling water and vegetable oil, and form into a dough. Turn out onto board dusted with starch (I don’t recommend a wooden board as it starts out pretty sticky). Once you have a uniform dough, form about 14-15 balls a little more than an inch in diameter. Cover with a moist paper towel.

Filling: heat a large pan with the sesame oil; add the tofu and soy sauce (or bouillon). Mash the tofu and let it fry for about 10 minutes on medium, burning off excess water. Take the chives and green onions, hold them in a bunch over the pot, and cut them into bits with scissors.  Stir-fry the whole thing for at least 10 more minutes.
filling for chive dumplings
Allow the filling to cool for about 10 minutes. Then take one of your dough balls, sandwich it in between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper, and roll out a circle about 4 inches across (it should be the thickness of a dumpling wrapper). Put some filling the middle, then pull the dough up around it. I just pull in 4 opposite ends first and then pull in the rest. No fancy pleats for me. You want the dough to meet in the middle with minimal overlap, because these dumplings should be round and fat (like a cheese wheel), not crescent or bun-shaped. Once there are no holes on top (seam side), put the dumpling top-side down on wax paper until you have a batch ready to go. Preheat your pan to medium with a little oil and set the dumplings in bottom side down. Flatten with a turner if necessary. After 2 minutes (just starting to brown), flip them over and pan fry the top-side for 2 minutes.
after flipping
Then, add about 1/3 cup water (carefully, it’ll splatter)– enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but not too much because you will have to burn this water off. Cover and steam the dumplings for about 5 minutes– the wrappers will become translucent. Turn the heat up to med-hi, let the water burn off, and then pan fry the tops again for a few minutes until they are nice and toasty on both sides.
Chinese chive dumplings

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