Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fuyu Persimmons

If you've never really liked persimmons, don't give up yet. Try the Japanese "fuyu" persimmon--it's sweet, delicate, and without that astringent pucker factor. The fruit is ripe when firm, which widens the possible applications. I've used them in sauces, chutneys, salads and desserts. Most recently, I made:

Baby Spinach Salad with Fuyu Persimmon, Balsamic-braised Red Onion, and Pecans

Whenever I get a pound of baby spinach, I look to see if there are any really tiny leaves, and pick them out for use in salads like this one. Note that the leaves are not much bigger than the pecans. I began by sauteeing a sliced red onion in a little EVOO with a bay leaf, salt and pepper, then I added a few tablespoons of this unusual "dark chocolate balsamic vinegar" I got from a specialty store ("Le Roux" in Portland, Maine) and let it bubble for just about a minute. When it had cooled, I drained it and used the juices to make the dressing. Then I tossed the onion and everything else together. A very rich, yet light salad, with nice flavor, color and texture contrast.

On Christmas, after the usual heavy meal everyone expected (and received), I ended with a very light and simple dessert,

Fuyu Persimmons and Cherries with Black Cherry Balsamic and Julienned Buddha Hand Citron Zest

A killer dessert, period. 
Massive carbon footprint (the cherries came all the way from Argentina), but then Christmas is a time of horrific waste, let's face it. Hey, at least we didn't kill any trees. My wife made a very cool cone shape out of bamboo gardening stakes and covered it with lights--it was the best Christmas "tree" ever!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Carbs vs. Fats in the News (AGAIN!)

I found this article dangerously misleading.

While it is true that there are no essential carbohydrates, there are essential vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients that are essential to optimum health which are embedded in, and transported by carbohydrates (fresh plants, that is--not doughnuts). There is a vast difference between eating plants and eating processed starches and sugar. Consuming a salad of fresh fruits or vegetables is not even vaguely like eating an equal quantity of spaghetti, for example. Both come from plants, but the pasta has nothing of value to offer, whereas the salad is bursting with healthful nutrients.

Protein and fat also can--and should be--classified as good and bad, in large part by whether they are refined and overprocessed, or close to their natural state.

Finally, it should be noted that protein, fat and other nutrients can ALL be obtained from plant sources, without having been first processed by animals (converted to meat and dairy). I've been enjoying radiant health since I stopped eating animal products, well over one year ago, so I can say this without hesitation.

I don't believe that it's carbohydrates as a chemical compound that are a threat to health, but the consumption of highly processed plant AND animal food--stripped of nutritional value and reduced to very simple sugars, damaged fats, and unnatural molecules. Because we have not co-evolved with these anomaly-ridden foods, we lack the genetic code for coping with them, let alone deriving any benefit from them.

It's not a stretch to say that people who consume even moderate amounts of highly processed food can expect to develop degenerative diseases. The current high rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer bear this out.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Buddha Hand Citron

Maybe you've come across this weird-looking fruit in a gourmet grocery and wondered what planet it came from. I first saw it among other exotic fruits in an open-air market in Malaysia, and--as is often the case with new discoveries--I soon began to see it in a few American markets.  I found the largest ever last week at Whole Foods in Colorado Springs. The picture on the right shows the stem end, and the best view of the fruit's eerie-looking "fingers." Below is the "underside," which is usually turned up for display, probably because this gives it a less creepy, more floral look.

The fruit has a very fragrant citrus aroma, but unlike all the other citrus fruits you may have had,  the Buddha hand citron is all skin and no juice. The good news is that the white pith that makes up most of the fruit isn't bitter the way other citrus pith is, so you can eat the entire thing--either raw, sliced thinly in a salad, added to a cooked dish for added flavor notes, or candied. I've also used the zest alone, where the flavor is concentrated most.

For Christmas this year, I made some Buddha hand vodka that was a huge hit (second only to the "habanero vodka" I posted earlier). Use the same basic method, with chopped citron instead of the chilies. This one is more of a sipping vodka, since you don't really need to shoot it for full effect.
It's a gorgeously hypnotic thing to look at, so you'll probably want to adorn your kitchen counter with it for a while. It really is something special, but a word of caution: be sure to use it before it begins to get moldy on you! This happens from the inside out, so at the very first sign of discoloration on the surface, you have at most a day or two left, and then it will be gone.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Edamame Salad: the Perfect "Bring-a-Dish" Item

Okay, the picture is new (just made it for a party on Sunday), but the recipe is from my first cookbook, Omega 3 Cuisine (word for word). It's a good dish to bring to a party where no one else will be likely to think about people who don't eat animals.

Edamame Salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings
Edamame are green soybean pods. I first encountered them splattered with soy sauce, served as an appetizer in a Japanese sushi bar. You’re supposed to stick the pod into your mouth, bite down, and pull it back out, squishing out the delicious green soybeans (you eat the beans and discard the pods). The beans can usually be found in the frozen section of supermarkets and natural food stores, conveniently shelled. Soybeans are known to be high in protein, calcium, and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Not only that, they’re good to eat! This salad has been a runaway hit every time I’ve served it. I used to grill the corn, but that was before Udo informed me that eating burned food causes cancer. 
Note: I went ahead and grilled the corn for this one time (sorry, Udo), because it really does taste good. I used 3 ears. Don't skimp on the herbs!

1 pound shelled edamame, blanched until tender-crisp
1 red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups diced celery
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and diced
2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled and diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 avocados, diced
1 cup cooked corn kernels
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup Basil Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to avoid mashing the avocado. Serve in small bowls or on a bed of lettuce.

Basil Vinaigrette
Makes about 2 cups
In addition to being a knockout-brilliant salad dressing, this is also (odd as it may sound) good on a baked potato instead of the usual butter, sour cream, and fake bacon bits.

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Udo’s Oil

Combine the basil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and process until smooth. With the blender running, slowly pour in the oil. For the best enjoyment, use this dressing immediately.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Hot & Cold Vodka for the Holidays

This is perfect in freezing cold weather (or anytime, actually). Served fresh from the freezer, it's a knockout. You get this thick, icy flow down your throat, immediately followed by a burst of flavor and heat that roars all through you, from your mouth down to your chest and stomach. Then it dissipates slowly as your head tries to wrap itself around what just happened. It may sound masochistic, but you'll be surprised how good the whole thing feels. It's addicting, though, so watch it--this will creep up on you after a few shots!

It's super easy to make. First pick a nice vodka. I use Tito's (made in Austin, Texas) because it's both super-smooth and inexpensive (around $19.95 for 750 ml). Pour out a shot and set aside (or shoot--it's not going back in the bottle). Take 4 very fresh, unblemished habanero chilies and quarter them lengthwise. Carefully pare out and discard the seeds. Stuff the quarters into the bottle, replace the cap, and shake once. Place in the freezer and let the flavor and burn develop for about 3 days. Keep in the freezer until just before serving.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cannellini and Pumpkin Soup

A really simple, but succulent dish. 
Onion, leek, celery, garlic and pumpkin, sauteed in just a couple tablespoons of EVOO with a few rosemary sprigs and sea salt. Then vegetable bouillon cubes and water added and simmered until the pumpkin was just tender. Cannellini cooked separately and added; simmered another few minutes for flavors to meld. I didn't have any parsley, so I added some finely chopped Tuscan kale leaves, along with a grinding of black pepper--just a few twists of the mill. The photo isn't the best, but the soup was amazing--buttery rich, with sweet pumpkin flavors and an odd haunting hint of Parmesan cheese (maybe it was my taste memory filling in the blanks?). Yum.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Speed Vegan Makes the "Top 12 Healthy Cookbooks of 2010!"

New Hope 360, the publishers of Delicious Living magazine, have this to say in their lineup of the Top 12 Healthy Cookbooks of 2010 (Speed Vegan is #7):

7. Speed Vegan by Alan Roettinger (Book Publishing). Another DL contributor, Alan always wows our team with his delicious recipes. This is his second cookbook (his first, Omega-3 Cuisine, is another winner) and, while utilitarian in looks, I can guarantee that the recipes will thrill you -- and, an important element for busy cooks, they're quick and easy to make. This guy loves food, so there's no hint of deprivation or grimness in his cooking; it's all about joy and loving life. Try the Green Bean and Garbanzo Salad, Red Quinoa with Zucchini and Corn, Tuscan Kale and Coconut Soup with Tofu … it’s all yummy, and you won’t even know you’re dispensing with all animal-based foods.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm calling it "Sprouts, Shoots & Leaves."

Salad of pea shoots, daikon sprouts, 
mung bean sprouts, spicy sprout mix, 
julienned carrot, sliced Tuscan kale 
and scallions, with a spicy miso-lime dressing. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Staying Out of Boxes

I had agreed to meet my wife at her office Christmas party last Friday night, at a place called "Fox & Hound."  The name had pretty much tipped me off that there would be scant options for someone who had stopped eating animals, but I was truly stunned to find not a single item on the menu that I could eat. I mean not one. This had never happened to me before. Perusing the menu was actually kind of scary. Because of the animal stuff? No, not at all. I've been cooking for a living off and on for about 30 years now, and I'm pretty much inured to all that. It was because of what I know about the food industry. If you've read "The End of Overeating," by David Kessler, you have a pretty good idea: intricate layers of fat, salt and sugar carefully designed to keep people slurping gobs of it down uncontrollably. We're talking some seriously freaky stuff--the kind no one wants to hear about at the table (and again, this is aside from the dead animals involved).

I knocked back a couple of vodka tonics and finally picked the one thing that I figured I might be able to salvage. When the waitress appeared, I said "I'll have the 'Field of Greens,' hold the chicken, bacon and cheeses." Then she began to rattle off the dressing options--Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island... I jumped ahead and asked for Italian (how bad could that be?). On the side--which turned out to be a smart move, because what arrived in an eight-ounce ramekin was a weird, light orange creamy goo that bore not even a vague resemblance to anything Italian I've ever seen. The waitress was very nice, and replaced it with a little oil and vinegar set. Whew.

Then that inevitable question came from the lady to my right. "Are you a vegan?" It wasn't condescending, she just wanted to know where to stick me in her explanation of the world. Have you ever noticed that? People tend to get uncomfortable when someone doesn't fit their standard grid. Had I just gone ahead and ordered a mountain of ribs with cheese-mashed potatoes, no one would have noticed. But here I was--an alien life-form that urgently needed pigeonholing.

I let the question hang for a beat, and replied, "No, ma'am, I'm just a human being who's paying attention." Smart-ass answer, you say? Well, it kept me label-free (which I like), and it led to a conversation that ended with me running out to the trunk of my car to bring her a copy of my book, "Speed Vegan," which she had me sign. She paid for it, too (which I also like).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dinner Last Night:

Quinoa-Carrot Timbale with Zucchini and Onions

I know it's a bit lame to post a photo and no recipe, but the truth is, I don't have one for this yet. I'm working on my third cookbook, and all I have are notes. You'll just have to wait and buy the book. For now, what I did was: cook the quinoa in carrot juice with a vegetable bouillon cube; saute some finely diced onion and garlic in olive oil with salt and Aleppo pepper, added shredded carrot and zucchini until soft, then add the quinoa and a pinch of saffron, stir until fairly dry, then remove from the heat and stir in some sliced scallions. Then I packed it into a timbale mold and served it surrounded by wilted zucchini and onion and drizzled with fresh scallion oil. It was a little bit sweet and spicy, with great notes of garlic, saffron and fresh scallion. Worked for me (my wife, too)!