About nekobasu

Love local food (easy out here in the Bay Area). Local market: Sunnyvale Farmer's Market. Member of the Two Small Farms CSA.

Currently a stay-at-home mom of two, taking a break from writing software. Love eating, cooking, science fiction, belly dancing, martial arts, the outdoors, crafts, and being organized.

Location

Sunnyvale, CA

Favorite Foods

soup, breads, dark chocolate, kale, genmaicha, crepes, apples, mangoes, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, beans

Favorite Food Writers

Isa Chandra Moskowitz, jamie oliver, the Moosewood Collective, Rick Bayless, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Madhur Jaffrey

I call myself a…

home cook with a need to feed others. And a foodie

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My first veggie loaf...

From Gone Walkabout by
January 9, 2010

I’ve always been nervous about the whole concept of a vegan loaf -- they always sounded dry and composed of weird ingredients. So in my last three years of vegan life I’ve stayed with my stews and soups and casseroles, quite happily.

Then I bought the Clean Food cookbook a few months ago, and I’ve been working through many of the recipes (so far, all fantastic). I came across the Lentil Apple Walnut Loaf and was intrigued -- it actually sounded tasty and while the combination of ingredients was a little odd, I could imagine eating them and they all lived in my kitchen.

I had a special goals-setting dinner set up with a friend who is vegetarian, so I decided to make the loaf and make some garlicky swiss chard and roasted potatoes on the side, in case the entree failed. Putting together the loaf was pretty simple, even for a mom with two sick toddlers underfoot. I used my rice cooker to cook the lentils, a first for me. Grating apples is rather fun, since they reduce so quickly. I used panko bread crumbs instead of normal ones, but that worked out fine. The sauce on top was especially interesting to me -- I used to love the meatloaf from the Barefoot Contessa, with the baked ketchup on top. This sauce was a mixture of ketchup, maple syrup, and apple butter, with some arrowroot powder as a starch. It smelled great!

The loaf, once baked, was very moist and soft (once cooled in the fridge, the leftovers were stiff enough to slice). It was a big hit with the adults, though the kids were not very interested. I’ll keep working on them -- I thought the raisins would be the gateway ingredient. :-)

While eating seconds, we tried to work out some improvements to the recipe. We’re thinking of adding some diced dried apricots instead of raisins, and apricot jam instead of apple butter. Dried cherries might also be interesting, though honestly I love the raisins.

Now I shall have to search for new veggie loaf recipes, they seem like an easy way to get protein and variety into my diet. Maybe I should make mini-loafs for the kids?

Loving the fresh corn...

From Gone Walkabout by
August 8, 2009

My CSA box had corn in it this week, for the first time ever... I guess they decided to take a break from the greens. :-)

They gave me eight or so ears, so I decided to use half of them for a Southwestern Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder (Moosewood recipe). I usually use frozen corn, but I’m so glad I didn’t this time! It’s a good recipe, but it was outstanding with fresh corn. They were so tender and sweet... I’m getting hungry just remembering it!

As a bonus, cutting the corn off the cob reminded me how much I loved fresh corn as a kid. We always had an abundance of homegrown corn at home from our garden, and my mother would pressure cook the corn on the cob and then cut it off for us to eat slathered in butter. I loved eating a bunch of kernels that were still stuck together, I wonder why? It just seemed so wonderful to have them all at once, I guess...

Now I must decide how to use the last four or five ears...

Ridding organic cauliflower of little critters...

From Gone Walkabout by
July 15, 2009

I’m guessing this is an old problem that our grandparents dealt with, then we all forgot when pesticides became so darn efficient. I really like cauliflower, and so do my kids, so we’ve been getting quite a bit in our CSA box and at the market.

Occasionally I get one that is pretty infested with tiny whispy little bugs, greyish or black. My current method of removal is to run water over the cut up florets, sometimes to submerge the florets in water in hopes of convincing the bugs to ditch the cauliflower. These all work pretty well, and I tell myself that eating cooked bugs is a good source of protein and B vitamins. But perhaps you have a better method? Please share!

Vegan Eggplant Parm - an experiment

From Gone Walkabout by
June 8, 2009

I was reading something on Culinate (an interview?) this morning and saw a reference to a garlic-eggplant dish with mushrooms. It stuck in my mind when I was shopping at Trader Joe’s this morning, and I ended up buying some globe eggplants and whole crimini mushrooms. The more I read the recipe, the more dubious I became about it, however, and I decided what I really wanted was a dish with very soft eggplant, mushrooms, garlic, and tomato sauce. I found a recipe online for an eggplant parm-like dish and decided to veganize it as an experiment.

The recipe calls for slicing the eggplant up into 1/4 inch slices and broiling them on both sides. I salted them first and let them sit out for a bit, and used both eggplants, probably a bit more than two pounds. In a frying pan, I sauteed an onion, three garlic cloves, the sliced mushrooms, some salt and spices (I used oregano, basil, and thyme). In a round oven dish with tall sides (souffle?) I layered the mushroom mixture, the eggplants, some freshly ground pepper, and some arrabiata sauce from a jar. Yes, I know, but I was lucky to have the time to make dinner at all, let alone cook tomato sauce from scratch today. I made two iterations of these layers, and it filled up the dish to the top. I let it sit for a couple of hours, then cooked it at 375 for thirty minutes.

I served it over pasta, and it was delicious. My husband says he normally doesn’t expect much from pasta sauces, but this has raised the bar tremendously. He really loved it, as did I. The flavors were intense, the eggplant was delightfully soft with crispy edges (I left the skins on), the arrabiata sauce gave it a spiciness that was really pleasant. We didn’t miss the cheese at all -- the veggies were very satisfying. Hmm, just realized it was a really low fat dish; I used some olive oil for the frying pan and brushed the eggplant slices with oil so they wouldn’t stick.

Next time I think I might add some greens -- maybe some spinach, basil, or chard. And maybe more mushrooms, 8 oz just seems to disappear once cooked.

What would you add to this dish?

Macaron heaven

From Gone Walkabout by
May 25, 2009

I’d always heard lovely things about macarons but didn’t really understand the fuss from the description. Then my husband brought me an assortment of tiny macarons from a lovely bakery in Paris as a consolation prize for not being able to go to the wedding of a friend there (short version of the story: the two year old didn’t want to be parted from me and left behind with the grandparents).

Anyways, I know understand why people love them so! Each bite is a wonderful progression of crisp to moist and chewy, and such intense flavors!

This is the actual box I devoured. The flavors were chocolate, coffee, raspberry, lemon, pistachio, and creme brulee.

You can go home again

From Gone Walkabout by
April 28, 2009

I’m about to go stay with my parents for a couple of weeks, and for me, my parent’s home is always about the food. I have plenty of non-food memories, but somehow it is the memories of making food, eating food, and growing food that defines my childhood.

My mother is French, but that doesn’t mean she was born in the food tradition. She was born during the second world war in Paris, and having known her mother, she did not learn to cook at home! Rather, she chose to learn it as a young adult. She embraced the back-to-nature culture of the US when she moved here in the early seventies; as a child, I watched her take classes in gardening and livestock and dyeing wool, participate in spinning and knitting circles, and become a farmer. As the eldest, I went along for the ride and picked up a love of food and crafts.

I’m grateful for my childhood experiences. There was no shame over eating fatty foods, they were celebrated as delicious (I often ate toast slathered with butter and shaved chocolate after school, mmm). I helped prepare meals, especially on weekends, and in high school my brother and I were often assigned Sunday dinner as our responsibility. I saw the entire process of raising animals and plants for food, which still informs my respect for fresh food.

But I’m not thinking of all that as I anticipate my mother’s delicious huge lunches! She follows the tradition in France of having a large lunchtime meal, to be followed by a rest. There will be cheeses and baguettes and a salad of whatever is in season, an apple tart at the end and cold pears, wine throughout and a big main course. At the start will be an appetizer, perhaps cornichons and pate. The meal I always request specially is her cassoulet. It is a traditional French stew of white beans and duck and sausage. Not vegetarian! But it’s a special case for me, because it says home to me and makes my mother so happy to have it appreciated. She adds an unusual number of carrots and some tomato paste to it, which is a variation I really love.

So I pack, and avoid thinking about the long flight with two small children, and dream about my first bite of cassoulet at a table surrounded by family.

Spring cleaning the fridge

From Gone Walkabout by
April 26, 2009

I’ll admit this up-front... I don’t clean my fridge regularly. Sure, if something spills, I’ll wipe it up. Maybe feel shamed into cleaning that entire shelf. But I don’t empty it out weekly for cleaning (does anyone?).

I’m about to go on a two-week vacation, so I’m trying to eat up all the stuff in the fridge in the next few days, and I’m going to take this as an opportunity to clear out all the old jars that stay hidden in the back. And to wash the drawers and shelves.

It’ll be nice to know that when we move (sometime next year) I won’t be moving old jars of jam from one fridge to the next. :-)

A weekday stirfry to celebrate spring

From Gone Walkabout by
April 17, 2009

My toddler son loves mushrooms and tofu, so I’m always on the lookout for recipes that include mushrooms (the tofu is often a given, since we’re vegan). I bought some lovely thin asparagus at the farmer’s market last weekend, so I was also looking for a new way to use it up. Usually I end up boiling the spears until just soft and serving them warm with a mustard-vinaigrette.

I found a great recipe in my trusty World Vegetarian, by Madhur Jaffrey. It takes 1/2 pound of asparagus, cut into 1.5 inch lengths and soaked in cold water, a pound of tofu cut into 1 inch cubes and soaked in hot water, and 12 dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in boiling water. It also asks for one garlic clove (whole), two scallions sliced, and two slices of fresh ginger. You also put together a sauce with the usual asian stirfry suspects: sesame oil, dry sherry, soy sauce, sugar, salt, cornstarch, chili sauce. Some of the mushroom stock is also used in the sauce and the stirfry.

It’s a good weekday recipe, in that you can prep everything far ahead of time. I ignored the time suggestions for soaking everything (went way over, was juggling feeding the baby solids and dinner). The cooking process itself only takes about ten minutes, and it was delicious. My son liked the mushrooms and tofu very much, but didn’t care for the asparagus. He ended up naming all four pieces of asparagus after everyone in our family and dropping them in his apple juice. Then he ate eight olives, a veggie sausage, and an entire avocado. I wonder if I can get him eating asparagus before the season is past?

Say it with me: Orach!

From Gone Walkabout by
April 1, 2009

My CSA likes orach, which I think is technically purple goosefoot. Think of it as ancestral purple spinach. It tastes like spinach, but is a gorgeous magenta, with some green leaves thrown in for variety. In the past, I was always a bit lost with the orach... I’m not a big fan of spinach, honestly. I like the hardier greens more, like kale and chard.

But! I have finally found my super-easy last-minute dinner use for orach. In the Simple Suppers cookbook from Moosewood is a recipe for sesame crusted tofu over spinach. You press your tofu slices into sesame seeds, fry them in sesame oil until browned on both sides, toss in some soy sauce and flip the tofu so it gets the soy sauce on both sides, then plate them and put the orach into the pan to wilt. I usually add some oil and any extra sesame seeds from the plate. Serve all this over some rice and you have a great meal! Plus, the tofu is toddler friendly; mine eats an entire slice all by himself and asks for more. He’s not eating the orach yet, sadly.

Leaving the comfort zone: nut loaf and puff pastry

From Gone Walkabout by
March 20, 2009

While I’ve been vegan for a while, I’ve never ventured into the nut-loaf territory. It always seemed so... militantly healthy. I worried that it was about nutrition over taste and texture. And my puff pastry avoidance I must put on my mother, who would always tell me how hard puff pastry was to work with whenever we ate baklava. Mmm... baklava.

I recently acquired the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook (loved the blog!), and was intrigued by the recipe for Mini Beef Wellingtons, which are mini puff pastries filled with nut loaf. The ingredients were all at hand, the major components are brown rice, chickpeas, walnuts, and oat bran. One variation includes sauteed mushrooms, which tipped the balance, since the toddler LOVES mushrooms. I bought some frozen whole wheat puff pastry, which turns out to be vegan these days. The nut-loaf part is easy to prepare, with a food processor. I have it cooling in the fridge now, I think I shall make them for dinner. The husband is out for a nine-day business trip, so I gotta do something fun every day to keep from going a little crazy with the kids. :-)

I’ll let you know how it goes... the toddler is an adventurous eater, but this may be too different at first.

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