Monday, July 25, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 28 It's Hot & You are Hungry= Making Salad a Meal

We've had our heat wave. It was so hot that at first I mistakenly thought my tomato plants were simply hot and thirsty.


What you want is something quick and easy during these dog days of summer.

This one is very easy and permits you to take two staples ( I think it's a great idea to make these, the yogurt, the broccoli,and the bread on Sunday for the work week) the oven roasted tomatoes* and the roasted portabello mushrooms for a tasty meal Yes. I will show you how to use the other staples in meals.

Quick Salad for the Hot and Hungry


1 to 2 mushrooms per person
3 to 4 oven roasted tomatoes per person
2 handfuls of salad greens (your choice, lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, etc)
Add, as you have at hand, other vegetables, I like fresh corn, dried cranberries, and olives but anything works here.
Salad dressing

Toss all ingredients, except the mushrooms. Divide salad onto plates and top with mushrooms

*Tomatoes in picture were not roasted by me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 27 Pock-Marked Tofu

Last weekend I went to Sun Wah for a lecture on tofu hosted by the Chicago Food Roundtable.  Later, I kid you not, that same day I see this article in the current issue of Food and Wine.

It’s time to show some love to this most important and good-for-you food.  Tofu.

I’ve had a problem eating it for years.  It’s been a lot like broccoli for me.  But taking a page from Mr. Steingarten, I’ve found a way to enjoy it.  Don’t worry, I will show you other ways in the future.

I finally worked up the nerve to make the Chinese classic mapo dofu a/ka/ ma po tofu.

As I read through this Chinese cook book I’ve had for decades it finally clicked.  There’s an anecdote prior to the recipe about how restaurants in China have you pay by the gram, or maybe the ounce, for mapo dofu.  You order so many grams of tofu and so many grams of pork or beef to be cooked together and presented.  I substituted the animal with a meat substitute and enjoyed it thoroughly.  If you don’t like meat analogs, leave it out.  You will still have a fine dish.

This does take a bit of time, but still doable for a weeknight meal where you have some time.

Pock-Marked Ma's Bean Curd a/k/a ma po doufu a/k/a ma po tofu


3-inch piece fresh ginger
5 scallions
1/2 pound Gimmelean or other meat substitute
5 T soy sauce (separated as 2 T and then 3 T)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
8 cloves of garlic
1 block of fresh tofu (approximately 1 lb)
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 ½ t. hot chili oil
1 t. chili paste, like Sriacha
1 t granulated sugar
3 T soy sauce
2 t. of cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground, roasted Szechwan peppercorns
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 T. of rice wine vinegar

Peel the ginger, and then chop it into teeny, tiny pieces.  When you think you are there, chop those teeny, tiny pieces down in size by at least half.

Clean the scallions, then chop them, both the white part and about one-third of the green, into pieces slightly larger than the ginger.

Take 1 tablespoon of the minced ginger and about 1 scallion’s worth of chopped scallion and mix into meat analog.  Then add 2 T of soy sauce and sesame oil.  Mix well and set aside for a half hour.

Meanwhile, peel garlic, chop coarsely then mix with the remainder of the ginger.  You are trying to create a ginger-garlic pulp out of this combo.  This is a pain in the neck, and takes some time but it is worth it.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can’t tell where the garlic starts and the ginger ends.

Make ½ in. cubes of tofu.

Mix the cornstarch into the meat substitute just before you start cooking.

Heat pan on a medium high for a minute or two.  You should place the palm of your hand over the pan and when it feels quite warm, your pan is ready. 

Now add oil to the very warm pan and it is hot enough when you see just a bit of smoke.

Add to your sizzling pan your garlic-ginger pulp and stir constantly so it doesn’t stick or burn.  You are building layers of distinct flavor this way, so next add the chili paste and hot chili oil.  Continue to stir constantly, now throw in the meat substitute and use a wooden spoon or a spatula to break it up into small bits.  Cook until done and a tad bit crispy.

Bean curd gets thrown into your sizzling pan of fragrant garlic-ginger pulp with crispy meat substitute.  Don’t forget to toss in the rest of the scallions and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. 

Next add the sugar, I know it sounds weird but at moderately heat it helps with browning as well as a flavor boost.

Add ½ c. of water and the remaining 3 T of soy sauce to the pan.  Let it come to a light boil.  After the contents come to a boil continue cooking for 2 minutes.  Add the Szechwan peppercorns.

Now spoon into the pan the sesame oil and stir to incorporate.  Finally, sprinkle the vinegar into the pan and stir until the slightly sharp smell hits your nose.

Serve with rice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Support Agricultural Sustainability and Clean Water

(from left to right) Todd Hanson (Wisconsin Trout Unlimited State Council Secretary), Ray White (Retired Assoc. Prof. of Fisheries Science at Montana State University), and Sara Strassman (Director, River Restoration Program at American Rivers) discuss water quality issues and trout habitat on the West Branch of the White River, Wautoma, WI, in the fall of 2010.

Today, we have a guest post from my BFF, Alistair George Stewart.
Alistair is an avid cold water resource conservationist and trout fisherman. He’s spent a lot of time over the last 15 years exploring pure, crystal-clear streams throughout Wisconsin. The time he has spent there has made him a lover of the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion in particular. Read below about an imminent threat to a resource we all depend upon – clean, safe water.
CAFOs, meaning large-scale confinement animal feeding operations, are the epitome of industrial agriculture. Virtually every argument made in support of CAFOs is based on their supposed economic benefits to rural communities – promises upon which they have consistently failed to deliver.
While the promised economic benefits of CAFOs are illusions, their environmental and social costs are real. Today, there is no legitimate basis for the denial of those costs. Virtually every socioeconomic study done on the subject in the past 50 years has shown that both the social and economic quality of life is better in communities characterized by small, diversified family farms. Even in cases where larger, specialized farming operations have brought more jobs and total income to communities, they have also brought greater inequity in income distribution.
Recently I learned of the proposed Richfield CAFO, in Wisconsin’s Adams County, on the eastern edge of the Central Sand Plains Ecoregion, immediately adjacent to the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion. The potential environmental degradations caused by such a large facility in areas recognized for their environmental significance and sensitivity concern me greatly. The planned water resource impacts alone are staggering and frightening.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 26 Portobello Mushrooms--a Staple

It maybe summer, but sometimes watermelon and cherries aren’t enough.  Generally, that’s all I need, let alone even want to eat during the summer months.

Still, I find that menu planning makes life easier.  The only problem is I get stuck zipping through books, magazines, and online trying to plan meals for the week and taking account of when we will definitely be eating out.

Here’s an easy winner that lends itself to menu planning.  Just roast all of them on Sunday and it should be easy to stick them into an array of places throughout the week.  I’ve used them hot as a primary vegetable.  Warm. And cold they’ve been featured prominently in salads.  Seriously, they make wonderful “bread” for sandwiches that any low-carb and/or high nutrient seeker can enjoy.

Plus they are good for you and if you are like me and make your own salad dressing, then by all means use it as the marinade for these lovely fungi.

Oven Roasted Portabello Mushrooms


2 lbs of Portabello mushrooms stems removed & caps brushed off
6 T. of vinaigrette (preferably homemade)
Pinch of Truffle Salt (optional)           

Preheat a shallow baking sheet in oven at 500 F.

Remove gills from mushroom caps.  Simply take a spoon and scrape the gills out. 

Place vinaigrette in a bowl and add pepper to taste.  One at a time place each mushroom in bowl of vinaigrette. Flip the mushroom over so that both sides get some vinaigrette.  Remove mushroom from bowl and place in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle with a generous portion of truffle salt and roast for seven minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

What Kind of Pickle Do You Like?

Parisian Pickling Cucumber

Last year’s garden was defensive.  What I mean by that is it wasn’t really planned.  We kind of just jumped in.  Plus it was the first time I’d ever planted anything.  This year’s garden is interrupted and distracted.  I started late and I’m already thinking of different varieties I want to plant next year.

This year’s distracted and interrupted garden features three types of cucumbers.  Last year I fell in love with pickles.  It’s intriguing.  Earlier this week, my husband and I had lunch together in the Loop.  I ordered a toasted cheese sandwich and it came with the ubiquitous spear.  As I reached for my pickle and took the initial bite, yes it was dilly, but I liked it anyhow, my husband looked at me, shook his head and smiled.  “It’s so odd to see you do that. Last year, you wouldn’t have been able to stand having it on your plate and I would have gotten it.”  He said with a glimmer in his eye, I asked him if he wanted the rest and he said, “No. It’s just funny.”

Okay, so now you know what I wish to do with three different types of cucumbers.  All of them can be pickled and only one variety can be used as a slicer.  I’m also going big by not giving them any trellis space.  I find trellising and staking rather annoying so I’ve done my best to avoid these two important methods as much as possible this season.  Already, I’m having second ideas and will probably give the watermelons some place to grow up.