Tag Archive for vegan

My Good Friend, The Humble Lentil

Each season I take 21 days to eat an entirely plant based diet and remove common allergens and inflammatories from my food routine. Some foods I decide to take longer breaks from, and others I can’t wait to get back to, and these choices change every season. Why is this important for the context of this post? For a couple reasons.

So simple. So delicious.

The most important reason is that each time I do a Restoration, my test kitchen goes into overdrive to keep a constant sense of discovery within the practice and to bring a vital experience of creativity to my kitchen. Or just to wake me out of a rut I can tend to fall into. It’s been my experience that people assume since I am a health coach and I do this kind of work daily, that my relationships to food, cooking and creative practice are all locked down. Like I am a born-again kind of health nut after my years of questionable choices and that I arrive here beyond all the challenges that go with this body. The belief is that I kind of levitate through the kitchen, a blissful fountain of delicious ideas pouring forth out of a traditionally gorgeous figure, equipped with the kitchen skills of a chef. And I’m probably over here dispensing advice and silently judging those of you who don’t give a shit what a hemp heart is. Some assumptions sashay along the path that I’m sporting a healthy glow after an easy nine mile run through the countryside and I’m looking forward to my fresh pressed green juice as I sit and solve all the digestive problems of every client I meet and pluck magical solutions to each conundrum of every soul and hand them out benevolently each hour. I wrap each day on the foam roller applying a soothing self-massage to my shoulder, so sore from patting myself on the back for a wonderful day of saving people from themselves and their terrible habits.

The truth is, my struggles happen alongside everyone else’s. Seasonal restorations have become a deeply important practice for me to re-set not just my body, but my routine in the kitchen. To keep learning, and to stay fresh as a facilitator and a human being. I usually adopt a new cookbook, or a new-to-me cookbook to study each season (or several) and bring new flavor profiles and skills to the experience for myself and my fellow Restorers.

Green, red, and French lentils. The French tend to hold together the strongest, as do the unpictured black, or Beluga lentils. Green and Red are perfect for soups. Pottery by the talented Charlene Swift.

The other reason it’s important for me to tell you that I’m at the tail end of the Spring Restoration is that before I began this season, I had been on a serious coffee bender. I had to begin weaning myself off The Bean because I was not only having my morning cup, but indulging every mild yen along the way as well. I’ve noticed that as The Keurig rises to World Domination leaving a brand new trail of plastic for our oceans in its wake, local businesses have set them up all over the place as welcoming committees for all of us as we wait. There is one at the vet, the tax people’s office and the local farm supply place. There’s samples at the grocery store and a station at the farmer’s market. Even the 9th ring of hell at the state car inspection place has set up a friendly interlude with Maxwell House K cups and artificial creamer. The original impulse for me wasn’t even about the coffee, it’s that I am such a SUCKER for FRIENDLINESS in a world that may be heating up on the weather front, but is growing decidedly colder in the human interaction arena that I want to be a part of each and every act of public kindness I can find. Couple this with my love of coffee and WHOOP, there it is.

As you might be able to guess by the heroic and rambling length of the preamble to the lentil

I DRANK COFFEE TODAY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THREE WEEKS AND I AM HIGH AS HELL.

It’s a little fucking slice of heaven, frankly. Half the reason I love quitting coffee four times a year is the total euphoria of the return of the first cup. I mean, I fucking LOVE IT. I’m sure after reading about my former enthusiasm for crystal meth, this comes as no surprise in the neighborhood of my proclivities, but OH, how the rock and roll lifestyle moves along. I could not be luckier or more deeply grateful that my big rush is now a stovetop espresso while wandering through the garden to see how much the parsley grew in one day of sun.  Ahem. Feel free to update your files about how health coaches only make perfect “healthy” choices. Or at least me. I will work on dismantling my suburban punk perfectionism one glorious cup of coffee at a time.

So. What about lentils?
Yes, the wonderful little lentil.

Many years ago, I think it was 1993 in Portland, OR at a vegan lesbian potluck, someone gave me a slice of lentil loaf. The offering arrived on my plate dense and brown and sad, dotted with specks of hopeful carrots and weighing about a full metric ton. SO depressing. Obviously, this not only put me off lentils for a solid decade, it filled me with an expansive dread that perhaps my love of butches might be doomed to arrive with a community hot girls but abysmal, flavorless, vegan food experiences. Now, I can’t stand by while both vegans and lesbians have to shoulder the atrocity of what transpired at so many similar potlucks from the 70s through the 90s. Not to mention the punishment the good name of the lentil has taken.

GODDESS BLESS THE HUMBLE LENTIL.

I got this recipe from my favorite cookbook of the season which I can’t shut the hell up about, Amy Chaplain’s At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. The only thing I’ve changed is that she uses 3 cloves of garlic and I use 5 because when it comes to garlic, in our house, MORE IS BETTER.

Such satisfaction. And such a taste sensation.

Amy Chaplain’s Lemony Marinated French Lentils

1c French Lentils, sorted and washed
3c filtered water
3 bay leaves
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 in piece kombu (cooked with legumes, this can help with gas later. You’re welcome.)
Zest of 1 lemon
2T lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
3T olive oil
1/2t salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Soak your lentils. Amy says 12-24 hours but 4 will do. And if you forgot, just rinse and add 5 minutes to your cooking time. Drain the lentils and put them in your heavy pot with your kombu, bay leaves and garlic cloves. Bring everything to a boil, then turn your flame down to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 25 minutes (30 if you didn’t soak). You want your little lentils to be soft, but not coming apart into a mush.

While everything is cooking, combine the rest of your ingredients (except parsley) in a bowl and whisk together. Drain your lentils when they are ready and stir in your wet oil mixture.

Part of why I love this recipe so much has to do with what happens after. You can serve these on their own as a main if you like. They are bright tasting and zingy and filling and taste divine. You can also chill them and have them next day as a plant protein in a salad, or transform them into a salad of their own, adding diced tomatoes, red quinoa, radishes, cucumbers and carrots OR you can put them back on the stove with a cup of vegetable broth, bring to a boil and turn down to simmer once again and VOILA, you’ve got a killer lentil soup in 15 dang minutes.

 

 

Winter Blizzard Chili for Everyone

There is really nothing better in a crazy winter storm than a bowl of phenomenal chili. I concocted this version based on a venison recipe by Hank Shaw. If you are not a vegetarian, his version is really scrumptious and I think you might like it. I mean, it has slab bacon in it so there’s that. But for me a truly lovely thing about a bowl of chili is sitting around with a ton of friends and digging in. Because I know so many vegetarians, vegans and gluten free eaters, I like to make big batches of things that everyone can partake in. This spicy treat does the trick. And you know what Hank offered in his that sold me?

It’s the coffee.

(A rich decaf works just as well as full tilt if your crowd is caffeine free as well) The rich and earthy taste of this chili grounds the heat of the peppers and it’s just a damn joy. This recipe has some time notes so read it through first before attempting.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1c kidney beans, soaked overnight
1c cannellini beans, soaked overnight
4 dried chipotle peppers
1 dried ancho chile
1 medium sweet potato
2 large onions, diced
1 diced shallot
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon caraway, ground
5 all spice pods, ground
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons cumin, ground
1 tablespoon coriander, ground
2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 small can tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or one small can
1 cup of delicious coffee
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2c vegetable broth
2 tablespoons salt (you can use smoked salt here or chocolate salt if you have either. otherwise use seas salt or pink Himalayan. The pink is saltier so maybe start with 1 T and add to taste)
Cilantro to garnish
Get your beans and soak them in filtered water overnight. Alternately, use organic from a can in a pinch. I myself am in an Eden Foods boycott, but Westbrae carries great food. Pour 1c boiling water over the dried chiles and let them puff up (about an hour). Seed the chiles toss in the blender with their soaking water and the coffee.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

In a heavy lidded pot or Dutch oven, heat your olive oil. Add onion and shallots to the pot and cook until soft, stirring often. Now add your vampiric repellant garlic, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Cut your sweet potato in half, then long quarters and slice thin. Add the quarter moons to the mix. Cook another 2 minutes and add your apple cider vinegar. Now add the beans, paprika, cumin, caraway, allspice, coriander and salt all together and stir to bring it all together like a show tune. You probably want to let all of this hang out for a few minutes to become family.

Add your blended chile mix and tomato paste, then the chopped tomatoes, maple syrup and cover everything with your vegetable broth. Bring it all home and then put the heavy lid on.
Pop it in the oven for 2 hours. Hank says you want to check to see if you need more salt and broth (I haven’t yet, but you never know), and to see how the beans are doing. If you have the jalapeño, this is its time to shine. Dice it and add it in. THEN WASH YOUR HANDS REALLY GOOD. And don’t rub your eyes or any other delicate areas on yourself or anyone you like a lot.

Pop it back in the oven for 30 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve with your grain of choice, or bread, or chips and top with cilantro. Or if you are stuck in a storm and only have arugula like in this photo, use that.

ENJOY my little blizzard Amazons!

Also yummy with wild rice chips

Goodbye San Francisco, Notes on Ex-Lovers, and Welcome Home with Chana Masala.

It’s been nearly three weeks since I got here to my new home across the country from my beloved San Francisco. It’s not that all its digital money boom entirely obscured its charms from me with the Google busses and the wall to wall boutique donuts. It would take more than that. I love that town. I will always love that town. The way in which I remember some of the women who have come and gone. I can always recall how that one smelled so good right behind the neck like pomade and a campfire, or the other one, how she read me Raymond Chandler while I soaked in the bath. There was the first real true love who I somehow convinced, in true lesbian fashion, to stay on as my favorite abiding and loyal friend and that one who I don’t remember much about except how good she looked in those work-worn Levi’s every time she left. I always remember her leaving, which, as it turns out, is probably how the memory should go. I Hate to See You Leaving, But I Love to Watch You Go. All of those connections, like the city, are still easy in these ways to love. And with San Francisco, my favorite metropolis so far in which to live, I look forward to seeing her again, I know the exact angle of the sun going down on the bay in the Spring when I walk myself to a day game on a Wednesday clad in black and orange. I know the way the light starts to shimmy like a gown at the Oscars and the remainders of the old wood docks jut up out of the water right through the sequins. I know the way North Beach smells and which blocks off of Market used the sparkly concrete on the sidewalks so when you run over it, it hurts a little bit less at 8 miles. I love that city. But I am no longer right for city life itself and it really wore me the fuck down.

We moved to a town with a population of 711. There is no post office. No traffic light. Not one state route passes through the whole dang thing. No store and, well, no baseball stadium. But in this town, you can watch the bats come out when the sun trades places with the moon at dusk, the sky turns pink, then violet, then lazes its way to navy and finally black. It’s so dark, you look up and it’s like somebody powdered the canopy of night with sugar. A car rolls by maybe every 45 minutes. Maybe. We take the trash to the dump because no one comes to get it and the old dog can lumber around the back with me and no leash. He seems mad we waited until he was 15 to tote him out to paradise, but when the Spring comes, he won’t be mad about anything at all.

Plus, Elizabeth Warren is my Senator.
FUCK, YES to that.

I unpacked like a marine. Up before five and I just kept going until it was done. I always feel weird if the boxes are around. Since I left my home at 17 for college, I have changed domiciles 19 times. I have some ideas about what works for me. And the thing I have always known, is the kitchen comes first. Even before I really gave a shit about how I ate, something about the kitchen had to settle first. It’s where I always feel closest to some kind of connection to my foremothers. I’m not exactly sure why because Gramma Eva I don’t remember cooking very much and Nanny Bert cooked, but never seemed to love it. She loved to smoke these Parliament lights at the breakfast table with the glass top over a bagel and coffee. By the time I was six and old enough to get shipped to Jewish Grandparent Utopia on the gulf coast of Florida, she mostly seemed like she was waiting for the sun to drop from the hot sky so she could pour the Sapphire gin into a rough tumbler, squeeze in a lime, splash out some tonic and listen to the ice clink around as if Bach was conducting.

I remember my mother as a wonderful cook, but she always says I’m wrong. Meh, she says. But no matter what, we all ate together. All five of us. Every night there was a feast on the table for 5 effing people. That seems like such a feat to me when I think about it today. Keeping a house for a family, stitching them all together with brisket and clean laundry and floors so spotless, you might as well eat off of them. I remember this insane shiny wallpaper we had in the kitchen in Pittsburgh with massive cartoony flowers all on it and my mom tan from tennis, pushing her hair back from her forehead with the back of her wrist while she diced things. Something about my mom in the kitchen is the crux of what makes me feel, well, powerful.

I know. I’m as surprised about it as you are.

But that’s how it turned out. Nothing makes me feel more kick ass than inviting over a handful of favorite people and fanning out a spread of divine tastes for everyone. The more food restrictions, the better. I love a puzzle. I’ll try anything new. I like to listen to Sam Cooke, Aretha, Ray Charles and Leonard Cohen. I like cello when I cook or the sounds of a Giants game with Jon Miller calling it. I like them better when we win, but, fuck it, I’ll take any of it. And I will cook my ass off.

Anyhow, all of that to tell you, we had our first handful of incredible people over last week. In honor of our vegetarian, there was a salad, a mujadara, and a chana masala based on the Gingered Chickpeas recipe from the wonderful book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. I wanted something warming and cozy and this recipe was perfect. It also happens to be good for vegetarians, vegans, plus the wheat and gluten challenged. I served it over brown basmati rice. I’m sharing my variation with you here.

 

Welcome Home Chana Masala

1 Large tomato. (if you don’t have one, use a small can of diced)
1 small red onion, chopped
8 lengthwise slices of peeled ginger (each 2 in. long, 1 in. wide and
1/8 in. thick) Chop 4 of the pieces coarsely, and chop 4 into matchsticks.
1 dried serrano pepper, soaked in 3/4c water, liquid reserved
8 cloves of chopped garlic
1T coriander seeds
1T cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2T sunflower oil
2t hot paprika
1t turmeric
1/2c chopped fresh cilantro
3 cups cooked chickpeas (I cooked mine the day before with an onion)
1t garam masala
1t sea salt
1c vegetable broth
Juice of one lime. I like a big fat lime, myself.
First get your dried pepper in warm water to soak and get all puffy. While that happens, you can put your basmati rice on to cook. When the pepper is all puffy again, put it in a blender with its attending water, the tomato, onion, chopped ginger (not the matchsticks), half the garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and the cinnamon stick, busted up. Puree it all together and you should get a speckled dark red sauce.

After that, heat the sunflower oil in a pan and put in the ginger sticks. Let it sizzle for about 30 seconds and then add the rest of the garlic. Cook for another minute. Everything should turn light brown. When that happens, pour in the sauce from the blender. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the paprika, turmeric and 1/4c of the cilantro. Let the sauce come to a simmer again and sit for 5-10 minutes.

Now you get to add your chickpeas and a cup of vegetable broth (or water). Bring the whole shebang to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, and go stir it once in a while. Cook for about a half hour. The sauce should thicken and the chickpeas will get good and soft.

Now stir in the garam masala and the lime juice. Serve over rice with the remaining fresh cilantro used to garnish each bowl.

Welcome home.

 

Easy and Divine Asian Slaw

I leave in the morning for a working vacation in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, and as is usual for me, I’m still rushing around getting ready to go. I like to just pack it all in leading up to a departure so when I get on the plane, I sleep right the hell through it all. I’ve got my client folders ready, my business book downloaded, and my friend Lucy Corin‘s new collection ready to revel in. Have you had a chance to read any of her incredibly beautiful, funny, whipsmart, complicated, and devastating work? Well, she’s one of my favorites. So I am wholly thrilled to have her new book along with me. Plus… I made this to eat on my journey. I though you might like it,  too.

I am a lover of salad, but I tend to follow a few tried and true versions all the time. For this venture, I got out of my regular zone and plucked a bunch of greens from the shelf I don’t normally go to at first and I gotta say, I’m loving this concoction.

 

For the Salad
1 cucumber
1 fennel bulb
1/2 head napa cabbage, cored
1/2 bunch bok choy
1 carrot
1 mango
2 plums or pluots to your liking
1T black sesame seeds
1T  white sesame seeds

For the Dressing
1T toasted sesame oil
1T olive oil
1T ume plum vinegar
1T rice vinegar
1t tamari or coconut aminos
1T fresh grated ginger

Dice your greens in long thin strips. Grate your carrot. Chop your cucumber, plums, and mango into small cubes. In a separate bowl, whisk all your dressing ingredients together. Pour the dressing into the salad and toss thoroughly. Add in your sesame seeds and toss again. Chill the salad for 20 minutes to let the flavor set.

Get your grub on.

The Lucky Devil Summer Cleanse

This seasonal event begins July 19th and runs through August 9th.

You can sign up here!!!

The garden is starting to explode, the farmers’ markets are singing their siren songs and each weekend brings a new BBQ to enjoy. It’s SUMMER, it’s gorgeous, and frankly, so are YOU. So, are you ready to put all that beautiful Summer Produce to good use? Give your bod a break from the toxins in life and get yourself a clean slate? Take some time for yourself this summer and refocus on what you truly hunger for. Let’s uncover all the energy that’s been hiding under the breakneck pace of life that can sometimes short-circuit our nutrition choices. Seinberg Holistic Health Coaching is leading a 3 week cleanse program that draws from a variety of traditions: Ayurvedic, Macrobiotic, Vegan, and several other gems. Through experience and research I’ve culled a gentle program to support detoxing and rebooting without starving and suffering. This cleanse is not about what you can’t have, but what you GET TO have. Each morning will be greeted with a filling delicious smoothie and a warm beverage. Lunch will bring you a feast of clean eating, a fantastic meal packed with flavor, pleasure, nutrients and satisfaction. Evening arrives with a hearty soup or another smoothie if you like. Fresh juices can also be incorporated into the cleanse for those of you with juicers. Maybe this is just the thing that you need to get your juicing on, but to be clear, you can do this cleanse without the investment in a costly, if not AWESOME, juicer. We will also be keeping a log or a journal, looking at our skin as a major detox route, and incorporating quiet periods into our days, shutting down the white noise and chatter out for this sublime seasonal opportunity to get LIGHT. The theme of this season’s cleanse is LISTENING. Not only will we be clearing the deck for more energy, less bloat, a sharpened focus, and a more honest and accurate conversation with our bodies, we’ll make some conscious plans for our journies to come after we wrap up this fantastic cleanse. Together we will meet on the web and be in touch as a group. The sharing of experiences, recipes, ideas, struggles, and common crossroads will add to the whole experience of prioritizing your health for this season of abundance. The groups tend to be creative, HILARIOUS, and an incredible source of support where people form bonds and stay in touch for health goals long after cleanses come to an end. You do not have to purchase fancy equipment or hundreds of dollars worth of supplements. A blender will be needed. I got mine at an estate sale for like 12 bucks. The program incorporates a holistic approach to cleansing that is not just about whole food, but also about rest, time, sweat, creativity, joy, and quiet. If you are currently under the care of a physician, please talk to your doctor about doing any cleansing first, even a gentle cleanse like the Sweet Summer Cleanse. I am happy to consult with your health care practitioner as well. Join this seasonal kitchen adventure for $179 for a three week support system and experience plus a 30 minute private coaching call with me on the phone or on video chat. Registration ends the day of the cleanse, but it’s suggested to register one week before the clease begins so we can prepare our minds and bodies for this amazing experience. Also, last season this program sold out. I’ve found a way to expand a bit, but not much and spaces fill up.

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup

IMG_5772

I cook a lot. At home, I’d say about 90% of what I cook is vegan. But when it comes to old school Jewish Gr’ma family recipes, I usually don’t fuck around. I’ll get some chicken and render schmaltz and the whole Megillah. Or Haggadah, as it were. I put eggs in the matzo balls and the big fluffy things with dense centers float to the top of the soup like doughy halos. If it ain’t broke, not only does it not need fixing, but messing with 200 generations of Jews and their soups is no small undertaking. Still, like Haggadahs change, so too, do we all. As humans, it is our central JOB to change. Our priorities shift and move, our bodies continue to have changing needs, and our FAMILIES change as we grow as well.

Like many enthusiastically queer people, we have a long tradition of collecting chosen families. While I’ve been lucky and blessed to still be welcome and celebrated in my family of origin, this is not often the case. We sometimes leave home, leave our towns, and come together into new families we build out of a different kind of mortar. A sweetness that bind queers together, that binds all people who fight to live together. And in this way, we make new families, we make new traditions, and we make soup.

Last night I got invited to a seder of my best friend Schaefer and her lady. I’ve known Schaef since I was 23, which makes this year our 20th anniversary together. We’ve seen each other through a TON of transitions, often over BBQ. But some years ago, Schaef became vegan and brought me a whole new set of creative challenges. I kind of love when a set of dinner guests have extensively different food preferences and needs. It helps me off the beaten path to new ideas and riffs on things. It’s like jamming for a garage band, except I don’t have a band and well, my kitchen outfits are decidedly less metal than a good rock band. Whatever. I have some good aprons.

Last night I tried two* things. And this one was epic. Stepping off the flagpole for a vegan Matzo Ball Soup was kind of intense. But guess what: This shit is off the hook. And it will come as no surprise that I believe the reason for this is the hippie dust. Now before you even begin, I want to point out that you need several hours, if not overnight for the ball dough to chill in the fridge. I had mine in there for like 4 hours and that seemed fine. This recipe is a mash-up of many ideas and experiences but a driving force was this recipe.

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup

THE BALLS:

1c matzo meal
1/2c hippie dust (nutritional yeast)
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1t ground black pepper
1 package firm sprouted tofu
2T vegetable broth
1t coconut aminos, Bragg’s, or tamari

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Then chop up your tofu into small hunks and put it in your blender with the oil, the tamari (Bragg’s or coconut aminos), and the vegetable broth. Blend until smooth. You can use a food processor for this, but since my blender is out, I thought I’d see if it had the power to pull this off and it does. Now take your blender of silky vegan fluff and fold it into your hippie mix. Everything will come together nicely. Form the dough into the balls like you see above. I like mine kind of small to midsized. I used to love to make them as big as my head like they do at Canter’s in LA, but as life happens, my preferences changed. Now put the goods up to rest in the fridge for many hours. At least 4.

THE SOUP

1 red onion
1T olive oil
4 stalks celery
1 parsnip
6c homemade vegetable stock
1 1/2T celery salt
fresh parsley

Heat your olive oil up in a big soup pot. Add your chopped onion, chopped parsnip, and chopped celery.  Cook on medium until the onion and celery are translucent. Add the stock and the salt slowly and taste to make sure you like it. Bring everything to a boil and then turn down and let simmer. Get your balls out of the fridge and place them into the broth. Cover the soup for a half hour. When your timer goes off and you look, your balls will have floated on up and you will feel victorious and incredibile. Now let your soup cook for about an hour on low. Add the fresh parsley about ten minutes before you wanna eat. BAM.

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup: Dayenu!

*The other experiment I did was a gluten-free, sugar-free carrot cake. It turned out weird because I threw in some chia seeds and the flavor was off and whatever. The thing about experimenting is sometimes it doesn’t work and that’s FINE.

So here is my Passover offering to you. First some soup, and then this: May we all be free from the things that enslave us this Passover. And may we do what we can to free ourselves, and those that still suffer.

 

Latke Compendium: The Finish Line

I sometimes feel like the condiments are the best part of the show. My friend Elizabeth is a fantastic cook and when we make brunch together, the table is a veritable solar system of dips, sauces, sides, and toppings. Our bunches have eggs to order and yogurt to anchor everything, and even though the eggs will sport deep yellow yolks of happy hens who possibly roost on hand quilted thrones and the yogurt comes from cows so happy that we actually spy them all getting mani/pedi/udder massages (this is a lie), the real stars always lay in the orbiting mismatched bowls. Elizabeth brings her homemade caraway kraut, local honey from a friend’s bees in the Mission, dark and caramel. She makes jam and homemade salsa. Ginger will throw down with perfect southern biscuits and even started making some gluten-free ones for me, and we’ll put her cinnamon vanilla sunflower seed butter on them and close our eyes when we chew. I tote in a chutney of spiced fruits and pomegranate pear champagne vinaigrette for the massaged shaved kale salad with hazelnuts and fennel. We eat and pass bowls. We laugh and top each bite with different crowns. We brunch like champions, lazy and happy as the great world spins and we sip tea like there’s no work to do or bad phone calls to get. It’s condiment brunch and it’s one of my favorite days.

I also want to say that one of the best things about gathering people these days is the fact that everyone has different food needs. I live in San Francisco where you can’t spit without hitting someone who is going gluten free or paleo or vegan. Myself included. I do cleanses each season and I want people to just like food and feel good. So all these different desires that used to cause eye rolling and panic are now just an invitation for me to learn new things to make, find ways to bring together all kinds of new foods and make it No Big Deal. Because really, it’s not. It’s totally a blast. Send me your food needs and sensitivities, people. I AM NOT AFRAID.

Here’s some lemon creme fraiche on top of a beluga lentil soup drizzled with olive oil

CREME FRAICHE: So your latke gathering is now prepared with applesauce from yesterday. Today I bring you the creamy stuff to plop on your latkes. You won’t believe how friggin’ EASY it is to impress people with things like homemade creme fraiche. Making anything with the implication of a French accent really bowls your American pals over. But really all you have to do is this: The night before your party, put 2 tablespoons of buttermilk in a cup of heavy cream in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a pretty towel you like so in the morning it’ll be like being greeted by a chorus of angels. Not to get too Christmassy at Hanukkah, but whatever. I live in a mixed house. Let the bowl sit for like 12 hours or more if you like. Maybe up to 16. Then mix the creme and put it in the fridge until you want to serve it.

Is that it?
YES, MARY !!!!
Creme fraiche for the people.

This condiment is incredibly fun to modify for a good time. Meyer lemons are in season right now and you can zest one and squeeze a tiny bit in for a good tangy version. You can add harissa and about 3 finely diced olives for a Moroccan flavor or you can have a Greek kind of number with cucumbers and cilantro. This is a topping that just keeps giving. Tis the season after all.

VEGAN CASHEW CREAM Again, Mary, this is so easy, girl. Here’s what you need:

1c raw cashews
1/2 c filtered water

Soak your cashews for about 6 hours. They don’t need to soak as long as almonds do. They’ll plump up and turn white, which is appetizing for a cream situation. Pour off the water. Don’t use the soaking water in the next step. Ew. Now put your soaked cashews in a blender and cover them with new filtered water. I cover mine just barely. The less water, the creamier the sauce. Puree for several minutes. You want the nuts completely blended with no chunks or anything.

Is that it?
YES, MARY !!!!
Vegan creme for the people.

NOW, if you want vegan SOUR cream, just add in 1 t apple cider vinegar and the juice of one small lemon.

Play around with these. toppings are so fun and it’s easy to find your signature taste. People will be all up in your grill to bring the fantastic blah blah to the next neighborhood mixer. And you’ll be happy to because it’s fun to be the big hero in literally 5 minutes. Oh look, my inner Leo is showing.

A Latke Compendium – Part 1

A LATKE PRIMER:

FROM OLD SCHOOL HEART ATTACK STYLE TO A HEALTHY HANUKKAH AND A FEW FANCY FOODIE VERSIONS AS WELL.

I decided a few years ago that I wanted to thank my body for sticking it out with me through all the years I asked it to do a bunch of stupid shit. I traded my bong and my glass pipe in for running shoes. Daily probiotics have replaced uncharted pounds of gummi bears, and I generally choose to seek solace in meditation rather than unavailable women with great style. And maybe one of my favorite skills I’ve developed in being healthy is the flexibility of not trying to do everything so perfectly that it all ends up going to hell when I can’t swing the Impossible Dream. Which I rarely can. That’s why they call it Impossible. I just try do my best to fit in things that bring my life to a path that features serenity, with room for pit-stops at Mediocrity, The Best I Could Manage, and I Just Didn’t Feel Like It.

To that end, I’ve prepared a Latke compendium here that covers all kinds of versions of one of my favorite dishes that can accompany you on this same journey. Your traditional latke which offers, let’s face it, very little in nutritional fortitude, but then, so many other things! The traditional latke, for me, conjures up a steadfast feeling of comfort like almost nothing else. When I was a kid, I lived a suburban Jew existence in assimilationist tract neighborhoods. We seemed to ride a line between a pride of heritage and a scorn for any kind of militant indentityism that would bring a person into the harsh light of scrutiny. Each holiday season, a diligent Jewish Mom would tote a fryer into our public school classroom with a big bottle of Crisco “Vegetable” oil and a plate of pre-created latkes to fry up for the Christmas-celebrating majority of the school. My classrooms generally had 2 or 3 Jews apiece, and we always knew each other from Hebrew school or simply from this observation: Seinberg. Cohen. Goldstein. And everybody else knew too. Like most “otherings” in life, it is difficult to say just how the texture of being Jewish makes a girl know she’s different. For me it was something about minor chords from music featuring accordions, dark shul head coverings, and an undercurrent of always being in the process of study, our lives a series of Why renderings that brought more questions.

And there were the latkes. At school it’s one thing in open rooms, but at home, the smell would cling to the walls for all 8 nights of candles. And for me, that scent of fried potatoes was separate from all other fried potatoes. French fries don’t smell like latkes. Puffy potato pancakes from diners don’t smell like latkes. Only my mom’s latkes had that smell. I loved it. This was where difference felt triumphant and regal. This was where being baffled by reindeer and a massive cultural lie about a rotund laughing white man felt like a total WIN. I could put down my decoration envy and my longing for a needle, thread and a gargantuan bowl of popcorn in front of a black and white flickering Jimmy Stewart. It is a Wonderful Life, and this week it’s run by a march of beautiful lights, spinning tops, and potatoes. Who doesn’t love a goddang LATKE?!?!?

Since then, I have left my mother’s kitchen and my kitchen has a few other concerns aside from tradition. I have had a serious transformation around food and health, plus many of my loved ones have discovered food sensitivities, allergies and also adventurous spirits in the kitchen. And so I present to you, not just my mom’s latkes, but some gluten-free cakes, vegan options, and just plain exciting ways to get busy with a pancake this season.

Some things will always be true: Make more than you think you need because mere mortals will eat more latkes than you ever thought possible. Make your own applesauce because it’s apple season, it’s more delicious, and it’s easy as hell. You can even make your own crème fresh if sour cream isn’t really hitting the mark anymore. Plus bring in a cream option for your vegan pals as well. They will be the nicest ones to your dog at the party.

May you all gather. And may you all be warm in the joy of this festival.

The Latkes

As luck and a kind fate would have it, latkes are easy to make, if not kind of a pain in the ass. The cooking directions for the first recipe can be used for all the recipes. Basically, you grate, slice, mix, squeeze, and fry. BAM.

TRADITIONAL LATKES
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
1 medium onion, grated
1 c. matzo meal
3 chopped scallions
4 eggs, large
1T celery salt or sea salt
1t black pepper, freshly ground, coarse.
Safflower, Sunflower, coconut or grapeseed oil to pan fry with. (Coconut has a definite taste.)

Most people go ahead and get russet potatoes for latkes. My mom did. But me? I like a Yukon gold. They are starchier and sturdier, therefor holding the juices in a little better. That being said, I grew up on russets and something about those is comforting to me as well.

Preheat your oven to 200.
Put on an apron for crying out loud.
A cute one if possible.

Grate all your potatoes into a big ass mixing bowl. If you have a food processor, you will never be happier for it than at this moment. If not, maybe a friend or two would help for grating potatoes. Dice your onion small but you don’t have to get all perfectionist about it and throw that in the bowl too. Follow with scallion which I slice as thinly as possible. My mom didn’t use them at all, but I like the color. You could use chives to or omit if you like. Mix everything together after that and form your little pancakes.

Meanwhile heat your oil up in a fryer or a cast iron skillet. I make sure the bottom of the pan is shiny with oil and a little extra for the crisp, but not so much oil that folks is gonna keel ovah. Squeeze the excess moisture from the pancakes and lay them gently in the skillet/fryer. Brown on each side and then place them on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil you don’t need then transfer to an oven safe plate to keep warm while you the fry up the rest.

SWEET POTATO LATKES       *These are both Vegan and Gluten Free
2 lbs grated sweet potatoes
¾ c chopped onion
2T coconut oil
1t salt
½ c olive oil
¼ c diced fresh sage

BUTTERNUT SQUASH LATKES (adapted from the Mile End Cookbook. This is a gluten free AND vegan version using Bob’s Red Mill GF all purpose flour mix)
3 lb butternutnut squash, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ c Bob’s Red Mill GF all-purpose flour
2 ripe, mashed bananas
1 t sea salt
½ t freshly grated black pepper
Canola oil for frying.

LEEK LATKES (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Leek fritters)
1 lbs. leeks, dark green hacked off
1 lb. zucchini, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ c matzoh meal
½ t fresh ground black pepper
½ t smoked hot paprika
1 egg
Safflower, Sunflower, coconut or grapeseed oil for frying.

On these you have to clean your leeks first. Often there is dirt and grit inside the pretty rings so slice them in half the long way after removing the dark green parts and soak them to get alla that grime business taken care of. Now cook your leeks in salted boiling water for about 3 minutes to soften. Set them aside to dry or wring them dry in a towel. Add them to the scallions in a big bowl. Then add in all your other ingredients and stir everything until the incorporation is even and looks fantastic.  Continue with your frying directions and enjoy!

Tune in for Part 2 to make fixins!!!

Cherry Cilantro Sunflower Dressing

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Did I mention I am on a cleanse right now? Well, I am. Not only am I on the cleanse, I am leading the cleanse with 16 hilarious, devoted, disgruntled, creative and real people. Among our symptoms in the first 3 days are “screaming headaches”, stupifying fatigue (that’s my main one), intense cravings, crazy dreams and bouts of pointed rage. No one really feels too great yet. The first few days of a cleanse are kind of a shitshow. It’s like life, really: get through the shitshow to center stage, until inevitably, the tides turn again and then you gather your resources and sally forth.

The point is to give our bodies a break, let them reboot and do the real work of moving out all the toxins and stagnation to let new energy in. Once we spend a few short weeks slowing down, refocusing, and making choices based on what we’ve learned, our bottoming out doesn’t have to be as low after that. We being to crave healthy foods and activities. We have really great skin. We have way more energy. And we’re funnier. As if you thought that was even possible. Win/win/win.

As part of my intention setting, I’m in the process of kickstarting my novel again in preparation for some shows to promote the new Sister Spit Anthology, and also because I am going to finish the damn thing and publish it. The task of crawling back into the book is an emotional one, seeing what I left behind to languish and how coming back to it is also a reckoning with coming back to myself of that time. So here we are, and here we go. The Cleanse is a perfect time for this because I have a great deal of support from those people around me also doing it, PLUS, there is no way to lose when one engages a creative act. Even “failure” becomes its own reward, creating opportunity from nothing, an alchemy of art at each point of choice.

So as such, I eat an enormous salad every day. Bigger than my head. And these salads call for dressings. People: YOU NEVER HAVE TO BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN! I began my romance with homemade dressings from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food where she gives her basic vinaigrette recipe. Here it is.

Pour 1T Red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in a little at a time: 3 to 4 T extra virgin olive oil.

Variations: 1. Add a little pureed garlic or diced shallot or both to the vinegar. 2. White wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or lemon juice can replace part or all of the red wine vinegar. 3. Beat in a little mustard before you start adding the oil. 4. For part of the olive oil, substitute a very fresh nut oil, such as walnut or hazelnut. 5. Heavy cream or crème fraiche can replace all or some of the olive oil except not on this cleanse! 6. Chop some fresh herbs and stir them into the finished vinaigrette.

I’ve made about a hundred variations since then and for real have not purchased one bottle of dressing since I read this. Not one. Shelf dressings are expensive and more often than not, packed with crap you don’t need. Also not nearly as tasty as your home efforts will be and they are so easy. Yesterday’s went like this:

8 pitted ripe cherries
4T olive oil
1T sunflower oil
2T red wine vinegar
1T balsamic
1t raw sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 t crushed white peppercorn
1/4t ground cumin
small handful of fresh cilantro

Blend. Drizzle onto your salad and toss thoroughly.

Sunrise Gluten-Free Granola

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All of this delicious homemade almond milk has left a ton of almond meal opportunities around my kitchen these days. There have been banana breads, Black Caraway Bread, Pear Cake, and a magically full mason jar of homemade granola. Ginger loves it, so I end up making this version or a variation a coupla times a week along with the milk. It’s really easy. You can vary the ingredients to your liking, of course. In fact, more often than not, recipes are a guide to help you find the dish you want to make and a place to start that’s kind of close.

It’s funny. Like almond milk, granola is a thing I saw in the store all the time, so expensive, and often with evaporated cane juice (AKA sugar) as the first or second ingredient. I would spend hours pouring over the various flavors and when I’d finally find one that looked great, it’d be like 10 bucks for a little bag. In the end, I’d just forego the whole thing, resigning myself to spend my extra ducats someplace else, like fish oil supplements or really nice olive oil. Yet with all of this time spent, somehow I never saw myself as a person who could just MAKE it, be totally in control of the quality of the ingredients, and accomplish this for like 70% less money. It was like the granola only came from Fairy Land, crafted by a skilled tribe of gnomes gifted by the hippie Goddess while their unicorn neighbors in the next village made that tahini dressing that’s so good.

Well, call me a gnome. My version is not too sweet, gluten free, and sugar-free. Total Gnome Throw Down.

1c almond meal
1/2c rolled oats
1T apple butter
1T maple syrup
1T cocoa nibs
1T goji berries
1T green raisins
1T crushed walnuts
1T apple juice sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat your over to 225. Not so hot.

Take the almond meal from your almond milk, or from the store, and plop it in a bowl. Add your maple syrup, apple butter, and rolled oats. Stir it all up until the oats begin to absorb the liquid. If you want more clumps, you can add in honey, molasses, or more maple syrup. Once everything is all together, add in the dry ingredients and stir.

Spread out the mixture onto a baking sheet covered in foil, and set it inside your heated oven. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Pull out your concoction and stir it around, then flatten. It will still feel damp. Do this three more times so your granola cooks for a total of one hours. It should come out golden, warm, and dry with small clumps ready to go.

You can sprinkle it into yogurt, put a tin of it in your bag for a healthy snack during the day, get adventurous with probiotic-rich goat milk kefir, or just set it swimming in your almond milk.