19 February 2010

Ukoy (Squash and Sweet Potato Fritters); Nosh Mini Review

Birthday lunch for Stephanie this weekend included Ukoy—a Filipino fritter traditionally made with shrimp. Steph is not very omnivorous, so the above is a picture of the vegan version we made her. The recipe below is based on one given to my mom by a friend of her's from the Philippines.


  • A handful of Maine shrimp, bought fresh and in their shells. [Hurry, the season must almost be over!]
  • 2 Tbs. annato seeds
  • About 3/4 lbs. of squash, grated. We used an acorn squash, but you could use butternut or red kuri, or just about any squash. See my comment about butternut squashes below.
  • 1 sweet potato, grated
  • 1/2 Cu. corn starch
  • 1/2 Cu. flour
  • Scallions, the green tops, sliced thinly
Shell the shrimp, reserving the heads and shells. Simmer the shrimp heads and shells with the annato seeds in one cup of water for a while, then drain, reserving the water. Poach the shrimp meat in the reserved water very lightly (not until cook through). Drain the shrimp, reserving the poach water. Now make the fritters by combining the grated squash, grated sweet potato, cornstarch, flour and enough of the reserved poach water (maybe 1/2 Cu.) to make a batter just barely hold together. [N.B.: These amounts are all really approximate, so you may have to play with them.]

Heat a half an inch or more of oil in a wok or some other pot suitable for frying the fritters. Make a small patty out of the mixture on a plate and press a few shrimp into the top of the patty together with some scallions. Slide the patty into the oil. You can baste the top of the fritter with some oil to cook the shrimp into the fritter before flipping it. Cook the fritters until crispy and yummy. Sprinkle with salt, of course.

You can optionally serve the fritters with a sauce made with 1 Tbs. mashed garlic, salt and 1 Cu. white vinegar. I think they are fine without the sauce, however.

Featured Farm: The Best Squash I Have Ever Eaten …

… was a waltham butternut squash from Little Ridge Farm. Seriously, it was amazing. Little Ridge will raise pigs if you pay a deposit up front. I'm considering doing this, but I'm not sure I eat enough pork to justify it. You can also place a down payment on turkey or join their CSA.

Cornucopasetic Micro Restaurant Review: Nosh

I went to Nosh for a business lunch last week. I ended up with the pork belly reuben, which is a massive overkill of a sandwich: thick slices of braised pork belly, caramelized onions standing in for the sauerkraut, cheese and russian dressing. From those ingredients it should have been a legendary sandwich to tell my grand children about, but it somehow ended up being just okay. The fries were a major disappointment, however, because they were probably really good fries but they were coated in some lime flavored "dust" that was just horrible. The chipotle mayo that went with the fries was harsh and similarly horrible. In spite of all that, there were enough interesting sounding sandwiches on the menu that I'd like to try it one more time and see if my meal was just a fluke.

Find of the Week Via The Green Hand Bookstore

While waiting to sort an order for the Portland Food Coop this week, I visited The Green Hand Bookstore—which is run by the lady that runs the Strange Maine blog—and saw the most awesome book ever: a choose-your-own-adventure version of Staying Alive!

16 February 2010

Week-end Wreckage, Part IV

We have two great local food interviews in the works. Meanwhile, here's the week-end wreckage:

Heather Davis, who works for the local non-profit The Telling Room, wrote in and asked that I mention her organization's Movable Feast event on February 24. The Telling Room website describes the event as follows:

Please join The Telling Room and friends for a culinary experience unlike any other; one that will take you and your group on a journey in three acts. In one evening, we will visit three acclaimed restaurants—Local 188, Five Fifty-Five, and David's—to enjoy three different courses, followed by a last call at Local 188.
[Nice correct typographical usage of emdashes, Telling Room.] The Telling Room works with kids to improve literacy and writing skills through story-telling, which is pretty cool, so please consider helping them out.

Check out Kate Hasset's amazing photographs of Maine food greats such as Mother Oven Bakery, Heiwa Tofu, Black Crow Bakery and others.

From Away:

My new favorite neologism is "Taco Shed." [via BLDBLG.] I am passing on the coined taco term, T&T&A, for the time being [as reported on Huffington Post recently].

Behold, the "Anti Fridge." [Via Ecology of Food via Edible Geography.]

Obi-Wan Canoli: Yes, Cuke. The Farm is what gives us our power; it's a kind of 'field' that creates all edible things. But, alas, the market has been taken over by the dark side of the Farm. [Via Edible Geography.]

Finally, what you've always wanted: a wasabi smoke alarm. Imagine setting that off accidentally. Calligula's recent "restaurant debauchery" post reminds me of the time I won $20.00 by snorting a line of wasabi powder. It wasn't nearly enough money. [What is the statute of limitations on criminal offenses in Illinois anyway?]

Also, yes, I know that I never spell dessert properly as has been recently pointed out.

13 February 2010

Week-End Wreckage, Part III

Some new (to me) local food blogs: Karen, who writes for Maine Loves Food, wrote in to mention her food blog, Mignardise, which is nice. Judging from her blog's facebook page, everyone knew about her but me. Also, local (Peak's) author Catherynne Valente has started posting occasional restaurant reviews on her livejournal. She kicks things off with a review of Paciarino. Her latest book, Palimpsest, was the best by far of any book I read last year. Sadly, she totally pans Paciarino, partly for reasons I understand but nonethless I have a real soft spot for the place and I feel pretty sad she didn't enjoy her lunch there.

Jamie Oliver won a TED Prize and gave a terrific speech at this year's TED conference on food and obesity in America. He's a bit over-excited and over-anxious in the presentation, and there is much he says that one must take on faith (although it's hard not to at this point), but it is definitely worth the eighteen minutes to watch it.

As for the best book I've read this year (so far), it's definitely Novella Carpenter's Farm City.

Carpenter started and now runs a small farm in a ghetto in Oakland, California, by squatting on land adjacent to her apartment. [I used to stay at a friend's apartment just half a mile from where her farm is now located, and, yeah, it wasn't exactly a safe place.] The book is divided into three parts, each detailing her efforts to raise a different animal—turkeys, rabbits and pigs. But beyond the immediate story of her urban farming amidst drive by shootings, which is engrossing enough, she takes up an interesting issue in each of the three parts: things like the fate of the 1970s back to the land movement by her (and my) parent's generation and the relevance of that fate with respect to the growing interest in urban farming in America. It's brilliantly literate from the first sentence and just excellently written throughout. I'm really sad now that I missed the signing at Rabelais Books. Hey Rabelais, do you have any signed copies? I had to get this by interlibrary loan and I think I'd like to own it.

12 February 2010

Tempeh in Sauerkraut; Also, Two Vegan Cookbook Mini-Reviews and a Cornucopasetic Bonus Recipe: What to Do With Rosario's Whole Wheat Baguettes

Dinner tonight: tempeh cooked with sauerkraut and tomatoes; roasted potatoes; Rosario's awesome whole wheat baguette in awesome sauce. The recipe for tempeh simmered in sauerkraut in Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet looked ridiculously simple and boring, so overlooked it at first. I'm glad I bothered to give it a try though.

Tempeh With Sauerkraut and Tomatoes
Adapted from Robin Robertson, Vegan Planet (2003)

Tempeh, sauerkraut, tomatoes. That's pretty much the recipe. It's almost too simple to post, but it was good and sort of satisfying in some way that I thought was worth mentioning.

  • One package of Lalibela Farm's tempeh, cut into a 1/2 inch dice;
  • 2 cups of Thirty Acre Farm's Sauerkraut (the kind with with the juniper berries and caraway seeds, but remove the juniper berries for this recipe);
  • Half a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, diced, with their juice;
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar, maybe a bit more; and
  • salt, pepper.
Brown the tempeh cubes in oil for a few minutes. I have notice that the Lalibela tempeh develops a nice nutty flavor when it is browned slowly; the lightlife tempeh I preferred before there was good local tempeh didn't do this at all. Once the tempeh is browned, add the remaining ingredients, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. If the result is too watery at the end of the fifteen minutes, remove the cover and let it reduce.

Cookbook Mini-Review: Vegan Planet (2003) by Robin Robertson
Vegan Planet isn't the book to turn to for a cashew cream bechemel or oolong smoked tofu, but it's great for a night when you want dinner in less than an hour and you're too tired to think. The recipe above is about the least of what's in it, so don't let it steer you away from the book, but it does highlight some of Robin's ability to keep vegan cooking dead simple, healthy and yet interesting without going over the top. Robin has a number of other books that I haven't read, and she maintains a blog that you might be interested in. Final verdict: highly recommended for vegans and vegan poseurs such as myself.

Cookbook Mini-Review: Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine (2009) by Bryant Terry

I'm going to do what I haven't yet seen done in the blogosphere: pan Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen. Here's why: Bryant is working on all the right food issues in all the right ways, but he's not first and foremost a chef; he's a creative and effective writer, but he's not (yet) great at writing and testing recipes. We have to back up at this point and talk about why this book made such a splash. It's quirky as hell for a cookbook: it opens with music for a song that he wrote; each recipe is accompanied by recommendations not for wine but for tracks of music and art (and they're right on, too); and he takes on a cuisine that many don't off-hand associate with vegan cooking. However, many of the recipes are poorly written or were just not tested at all (the mafe recipe is a prime example). In places the book offers an interesting perspective and a few clever combinations, but it's not a book that you will learn any new tricks from if you have even a little bit of vegan cooking under your belt. Final verdict: it's a fun read but I'd suggest borrowing it from a library (if it's available) or me (just ask) before giving into to an impulse buy.

UPDATE: This is the age of Google alert after all, so I should not have been surprised when Mr. Terry commented on my post within hours after I posted it. I feel like a bit of a prick after reading his comment so I thought I ought to add this addendum to my review. Not only did I get Mr. Terry's name wrong, but I worried that I may have been a bit unfair. After some thought on the matter, I do stand by my review although I think I may not have expressed myself very clearly. What I was trying to say was that this is an interesting and fun book to read in its own right, but that if you already have some measure of experience cooking vegan food many of the recipes in this book will not be a revelation, although there are a few interesting recipes here and there. If vegan cooking is a new thing to you, this is a good place to start, although I did feel that some of the recipes were not as concisely written as they could have been.

Cornucopasetic Bonus Recipe: Better Than Garlic Bread

I like using Rosario's whole wheat baguette to make garlic bread, but it's even better when you spread on top: olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of walnuts, some fresh rosemary, salt and pepper all smashed like crazy to a paste in a mortar.

10 February 2010

Portland Farmers' Market Website; Also Portland Winter Farmers' Market

Tempeh hero, Jaime Berhanu, developed a website for the Portland Farmers' Market.

Also, be sure to check out opening day of the Portland Winter Farmers' Market this next Saturday, February 1020, 2010, at 85 Free Street starting at 10:00 am. [Thanks, Kate.]

04 February 2010

Week-end Wreckage, Part II (a bit ahead of schedule)

Yes, a tumblr exists solely for posting images of Tom Selleck, waterfalls and sandwiches. That shrimp po' boy does looks good though …

Also, I had to laugh at the vegan professor in Canada who is spamming Sarah Palin by snail mail with daily entreaties to veganism. Good luck with that and let me know if you need any stamps, professor.

[Image from the LA Times.]

Finally, I noted in the wild a few new (to me) Maine food blogs. First, Paul Drowns' blog devoted to chronicling his endeavors in charcuterie: Gimme Real Food; also, Portland based "Lukaduke's" very localfoodie-esque blog project for 2010 chronicling his year in local food named, alas, LocalroootZ.