Monthly Archives: July 2008

>An entirely successful experiment.

>So a few weeks ago I was reading David Leibovitz’s blog which I can’t recommend enough (he’s far wittier than I am). He had an entry about making panisses which besides looking darned tasty have only 1 real ingredient: chickpea flour.

In one of those semi-rare occurrences where everything sort of falls into place I recalled that I have almost an entire bag of this chickpea flour in my cupboard. I had bought this bag more than a year ago during a fit of hippie-weirdness when I had decided that the surefire way to best impress my new boyfriend’s Indiana-homegrown family was to prove how awesome my cooking is by serving very spicy curried pumpkin soup with cauliflower-chickpea flour pancakes on Thanksgiving.

You can imagine the ensuing chaos I’m sure. Ha ha.

Anyway I had this bag of chickpea flour in the house where it wasn’t going anywhere quickly. I’d bought it at my local international market (of course) in the Indian foods aisle and the bag says it’s also called Gram Flour. Frankly it seemed kind of bitter.

Because of an upcoming pre-bout derby potluck that would actually be attended by real vegans I threw caution to the wind and placed myself in the hands of the ever-loving Mr. Leibovitz and his Panisses recipe.

After this experience I can highly recommend this as a party food for a few reasons:

1) It’s naturally vegan but no non-vegans care.
2) Very simple to make, actually just like making polenta. You pretty much stir the flour and some salt into boiling water and stir till it thickens. Then you pour it into a pan to cool. Once cool you cut it into strips and fry them in olive oil and then top with course salt and pepper.
3) I was able to make the batter the night before, refrigerate the pan, then fry the next day. Made my cooking time both days short and manageable.
4) These things are fricking delicious. Wow.
5) My bag of chickpea flour cost $1.88.

Beautiful golden panisses.

In the future when I do this again (and I certainly will) I may try mixing some additional flavors into the batter: herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped olives, pepper, etc. Not that they need anything at all.

I may also see if I can cook big squares of the stuff on the grill.

Ps. Watch out for how smoky frying makes your house. Get your fan ready in advance and warn your boyfriend.

>Weird Fruit No.1

>I’m a sucker for a weird food item I haven’t seen or tasted before. Usually these experiments end up without any real impact on my life as the thing I’ve acquired was neither good nor bad. Once in awhile they are truly terrible (Korean pickled mustard greens) or wonderful (creamy processed Feta!). Often they’re just interesting.

This time I picked up a Dragonfruit from my favorite nearby international market:

(seen here poorly posed with my Balinese trinket who’s hook+string contraption has broken)

I suppose I mostly bought it because of the beautiful magenta color and the evocative name. Also because I’d never heard of one before and possibly because I’m stubborn.

So I brought it home and as you can see it looks like a very mod kiwi. Too bad it tastes….. like almost nothing. More watery than a kiwi with less flavor.

But I’m glad I tried it and I’m glad I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered that a dragonfruit is also called a pitaya… which is also the name of an overpriced trendy clothing store in town.

According to Wikipedia this is the fruit of a cactus and is found in many hot places all over the world (Mexico through Malaysia, Southeast Asia, etc.)

It was definitely worth trying once. If only because it is so very cool looking.

Strangely though while I thought it was pretty boring my boyfriend STRONGLY disliked it. Who knows, maybe he’s genetically predisposed to like tasteless tropical fruit.

>On popsicles, and a ramble about coconut milk

>I am at the very beginning of what may become a totally new food obsession; I tend to find a very basic food and frick with it for an extended period of time, until I get bored, or I decide that I’ve explored every possibility for that food. After all, there is only so much you can do to hummus and I was obsessed enough to make hummus 2 or 3x a week for more than 8mo.

Now hummus is just an easy to throw together party food.

While the ice cream obsession continues I’ve currently run out of steam for it for a little while, conveniently leaving me with time to mess around with a new dessert medium… popsicles.

For some reason I’d gotten rid of the almost-perfect popsicle mold I used in the dorms; I would use my food points to buy a single container of fat-free fruit yogurt which made exactly four little popsicles in my tiny dorm fridge/freezer/microwave unit. So I went out to buy a new mold only to discover that contemporary popsicle molds are kind of shitty- the one I bought has a lovely shape but the plastic sticks a) POP onto the mold itself b) only have little ridges on them, no holes. So of course when I froze my first batch I had to unsuction the stick before trying to pull it out. Of course all the gentle wiggling from the unsuctioning process had ruined any possibility of removing the popsicle intact. So today I ended up at our local fricking enormous craft store where I purchased real wooden popsicle sticks. Tonight I will thaw the base in the molds and refreeze them with the wooden sticks. Jeez.

I want to make popsicles, but I feel like popsicles should be a healthier dessert than ice cream. Who knows why, cause I’m sure that any ice cream base I create would make lovely popsicles in it’s unwhipped form. Part of making them healthy involves making them with little to no sugar… easier said than done because any frozen dessert and especially frozen popsicles need sugar to interfere with all those water molecules and prevent them from forming a solid icy mass.

My first batch fulfills my nasty recent craving for coconut popsicles (apparently not for sale anywhere in Bloomington) and has only three ingredients: coconut milk, vanilla extract, and brown rice syrup. The brown rice syrup behaved BEAUTIFULLY in it’s interference with the water molecules. I was very pleased by the thick base I created on the stove and throughly enjoyed the one half popsicle that I managed to successfully remove from the mold (hrumph).

3 things about cooking with coconut milk:
1) coconut milk is NOT lowfat (but it’s one of my favorite foods and I won’t give it up). Not lowfat at all.
2) When using coconut milk you must always heat it before using it. Unheated coconut milk simply doesn’t taste as good; the heat releases most of the flavor. If you’re going to eat something fatty it might as well taste as good as possible. Releasing the flavor is easy: simply pour the can into a saucepan or into a microwave container and heat the milk until it just boils and releases a lovely nutty steam.
3) Do NOT mix coconut milk with anything acidic- it will actually curdle. It’s kinda amazing and very gross. If you want to make “pina colada” type things with pineapple or lime you must use Cream of Coconut which which will not curdle when mixed with acid.

Coconut milk can be found in the asian section of your grocery, unless they fricked up like our local Kroger and have shelved it with the canned condensed milk. Or you can just go to your local asian market and have an actual brand selection. Some really are better.

The popsicles are also awesome because they meet the needs of a friend who is not a vegetarian, but is sensitive to both dairy and sugar. They are also vegan, vegetarian, and so on. Just not low fat.

Coconut Popsicles

1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1) Mix coconut milk and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture just comes to a boil.
2) Remove from heat and wait 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract.
3) Allow to cool
4) Pour into your molds and freeze

I can’t really think of a dessert that is much that is easier. Go ahead and spend the $5 for the mold and wooden sticks, it’s worth it.

I’ll be experimenting with other flavors here in the next few weeks. Next up I think is a sugar-free lemon-lime cause citrus is so refreshing in the summer (cheeze). I’ll be trying agave nectar next to see how well it interferes with water molecules when it freezes. Guilt-free summer desserts are going to be the way to go.

ps. While buying popsicle sticks at the local craft store I finally found an 8 inch pie pan that will fit in my toaster oven. For $2. Stay tuned…

>Homegrown Indiana

>If you read this blog and you live anywhere but Bloomington you may not realize that my other hobby (besides derby and cooking) is this:

Actually playing Irish fiddle and local food have a ton of overlap- mainly because the audience is the same, and most of the musicians are in the audience and vice versa and so on ad infinitum.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to play music at the for the 2008 Homegrown Indiana Farm Tour dinner. For $25 participants got a bus tour through several local farms that practice regional permaculture and organic farming. The day ended with a FABULOUS dinner at the Lazy Black Bear [semi] primitive farm. I had never been to this place and I was unfortunately unable to take a picture (cause I was playing silly), but it was amazing. They have a covered kitchen and dining room that are otherwise open to the elements, a huge permanent grill, and a primitive bathroom that showcases a rather lovely view over a cliff…. that is visible by peering over the non-existent 4th wall in the bathroom.

The dinner was literally a feast cooked by several of the finest B-ton chefs who showcase local foods in their restaurant. There were several pork dishes that I [obviously] wasn’t interested in but I did have a mushroom burger, salad, potato salad, coleslaw, and blueberry cobbler that must have had 2,000 berries in it. Let’s just say that I had plenty to eat. All the food was local as were the beer and wine and the owner of the farm had an adorable pet possum that rode on her shoulder. Plus of course, lovely folksy entertainment by yours truly and guitarist-partner on a beautiful day.

I was able to participate for free as part of my payment for the gig and I SINCERELY hope that I am offered this opportunity again next year. If not, I’ll be paying to go on this tour myself. Just the dinner was well worth the cost of admission.

If I find a picture I’ll post it since everyone should get to see the neat structure where this took place.