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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

  Best wishes to you and yours! I hope you have many things to appreciate this year.

I hosted the feast at my place for my parents. The menu:

-Red lentil soup
-Mushroom and feta tart with oregano
-Butternut squash baked with leeks and garlic
-Green beans*
-Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and basil-infused olive oil
-Green salad (romaine lettuce, avocado, cucumber, tomato)*
-Greek olives*
-Pumpkin pie
-Cranberry nut bread* (one of my Mom's specialties: * indicates Mom brought these).

It was very relaxing, and completely worth staying up until 1 a.m. baking, so I could sleep in this morning and start the other dishes late. :-) The tart and my mother's cranberry bread were the non-vegan items on the menu; I need to come up with additional vegan items that my parents will love for feasts like this.

I hope you get the rest of the weekend off, and can enjoy some quality time with the people you enjoy most!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:53 PM

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama's First State Dinner: Vegetarian

  Hooray for India! Marking first state dinner, Obama welcomes Indian prime minister (, 11/25/09 edition) provides the menu:
Samuelsson worked with the White House kitchen staff to create vegetarian dishes in respect for Singh, who does not eat meat. Foodies, start your engines. Guests will begin with potato and eggplant salad and White House arugula -- the bitter greens favored by food snobs clearly no longer are deemed a political faux-pas -- with onion-seed vinaigrette. Following some red-lentil soup, there are two main courses: roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney, along with chickpeas and okra, or green curry prawns with caramelized salsify, smoked collard greens and coconut aged basmati rice.

Washing it all down are American wines: a 2008 sauvignon blanc from Napa Valley (Modus Operandi), a 2006 Riesling from the Willamette Valley (Brooks "Ara"), a 2007 Grenache from Santa Ynez (Beckmen Vineyards) and a sparkling chardonnay from Monticello (Thibaut-Janisson Brut).

Dessert includes a pumpkin pie tart and a pear tatin and an extravaganza of brittle, petits fours and pralines.
(You will note that there was an alternative non-vegetarian course of prawns available. Whatever.)

I had to look up "tatin" at, which means in baked upside down style, more or less.

It's a shame I didn't have a thing to wear, and so couldn't attend.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:19 PM

Friday, November 20, 2009

  Clean your dirty mind: is a website about sponge mops.

Sad but true: I went their looking for... a refill to my Type H sponge mop.

Yes, my life is exciting. [sound of weeping while cleaning]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodness to dip your soba in (Men Tsuyu recipe)

  I LOVE Japanese-type buckwheat noodles, especially zaru soba: fully cooked noodles served cold on a tray with dipping sauce, grated radish, and minced green onion.

The dipping sauce, soba tsuyu, is usually problematic for me as a vegetarian: somewhere within it is a dilute stock made with bonito (tuna) flakes. I get around this at home by serving saucy dishes with hot soba, but now I have a recipe for men tsuyu that I've modified to my tastes so I can eat the noodles zaru soba-style. It is based on a men tsuyu recipe from the Australian company Hakubaku: I've substituted sake where they call for white wine, increased the mushrooms, and decreased the sugar used.

-2 cups water
-3 large, fresh shiitake mushrooms, diced or minced
-1/2 cup soy sauce (I use tamari)
-1/2 cup sake
-1 tablespoon of (natural) sugar, such as evaporated cane juice
-1 tablespoon of ginger, minced or grated
-minced green onion, to taste.

Simmer the mushrooms in the water for five minutes; add everything other than the green onion and simmer for five minutes more. Add green onion when ready to serve. This makes about six half-cup servings of mushroom-flavored dipping sauce.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happiness is a bag of fresh shiitake mushrooms

  When I lived in the Richmond District, I had several favorite places to shop. There is Village Market on California at 8th, which had gorgeous produce, wonderful scented candles, and organic packaged food products I loved. There is the Real Food Market on Stanyan, technically in the inner sunset, but a pleasant walk across the park, with tomatoes, squash, and peppers that called out to be photographed. And then there was the May Wah. The incredible, infinite, alarmingly-squid-scented May Wah.

I was old school: I had been going to the old May Wah. Now it is the Richmond New May Wah Supermarket, and it moved to a larger location down the street. Though it still smells like squid, it otherwise does put "super" into supermarket. Thai rahmen, Indonesian curry paste, fresh local noodles, fresh local kimchee (including a type without fish sauce!), fresh local gai lan and other cool greens, fresh local pea shoots, exotically photo-worthy fruit, rolled bean curd sheet, every imaginable type of rice noodle, Japanese hard candies, and an incredible selection of tiny bottles of sake...

When fresh lychee is in season, I will do anything to get to this place. ANYTHING.

I know I'm not alone in loving May Wah, or in dreading the creepy aisles of ooo-smell-me-I'm-dead things in the 'recently live but not now' part of the store. The Yelp reviews on this point are a riot ( (This review, from Kristin T, is my favorite.) But I've been visiting in colder weather now, or I've learned to breathe less, or something, and it doesn't get to me the way it used to. Also, I run through that part of the store first, and then travel to the other half, which seems to have a separate ventilation system.

There are many things in this store which are anathema to localvores, having been shipped far and wide. While I am generally a localvore, I'm also a sucker for Thai rahmen and Kobe's regional sake varieties. There is plenty of fresh local stuff in my basket, but I do top it off with a few items that have traveled too far in moments of weakness.

This week's haul:
-choy sum hearts. These will turn up in all of my noodle soups, miso soups, and chili-garlic stir fries this week. The bag is alarmingly large, but I'm sure I'll make it through.
-fresh bean sprouts. For soups.
-shiitake mushrooms. So flavorful! So pretty!
-fresh Shanghai kimchee (made in Fremont). This particular version contains no fish products that I can discern. It contains napa cabbage, daikon radish (which I think breaks some kind of kimchee rule, but it is tasty), green onion, ginger, garlic, salt, sugar, and chili pepper. I'm munching on this right now. I used to pickle my own cabbage: I think I should try making this for myself. Even if it makes my fridge smell funny.
-May Lin China Vietnam-style hot chili garlic sauce. This is a local brand.
-chili oil. My local brand was sold out, so this was made in China.
-frozen steam(ed) buns containing celery, mushrooms with spinach, or mixed veggies. I [heart] vegan steam(ed) buns!
-three types of soba: cha (containing green tea), ume (containing plum), and inaka (whole buckwheat)
-Thai rahmen, the kind that comes with THREE flavor packets: one for sesame oil, one for soup base (with MSG), and one just for chili powder. The noodles are fried: this cures all kinds of fried cravings in its glorious 100 calories of fat.
-Chinese non-fried rahmen, flavored exotically with star anise, cinnamon, and four types of dried veggies.
-Yellow Thai chili paste. Mae Ploy makes red, green, yellow, masamun, and panang chili pastes, but yellow is the only variety without shrimp in it. (Generally, May Wah carries products containing shrimp in damn near everything that doesn't contain squid: READ LABELS carefully.) This paste contains: lemon grass, garlic, shallots, salt, galangal (which is available fresh in the other half of the store, near the fresh lemon grass and fresh turmeric), dried red chili, coriander seed, kaffir lime peel, cumin, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, and cardamom.

I also bought one of the Brianna's dressings (French) that no one else seems to carry anymore. I saved my fruit shopping for closer to home, since I had a long way to haul these goods back to the Ingleside, and didn't want to push my luck.

I'm a happy camper.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:17 PM

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Things you find 'down cellar'

  My mother, who grew up in Connecticut, is THRILLED to have found an old cookbook full of New England regional recipes and lore. She got it for twenty-five cents, and can't put it down.

It has recipes for homemade pickles, for chili sauces my grandmother made in my mother's childhood, for squirrel soup, for muskrat dishes (courtesy of Native American locals), for scrod (which I used to eat in the roadside fish shacks that existed during my childhood visits, always breaded and deep fried, always with tartar sauce), and for eels. Eels were a big New England staple, and the book even includes a poem about eels and the bounty they offer the river-filled regions.

Yes, the book has recipes for fried eel. Yes, you've just gotten over the nightmares you had when I described the preparation of fried eels in Unlike Mom Used To Make, Part VI: My Mom!!, my food interview with my mother about what she ate in the past compared to what she eats now. Sorry for bringing it up again. But I find it fascinating: the northeast has no fame for eel cuisine. When anyone mentions eating eel, I think of unagi sushi from Japan. (I've heard children whine and demand this dish from their parents. Yes, I live in San Francisco.)

My mother has pledged to sit down with me and talk about the dishes the book reminds her of. It should be fun. The whole idea of regional specialties is exciting to me, so I'm looking forward to it.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin cookies and profanity

  These were the major themes of the day. 

These may also be the two features of my completely imaginary Burning Man theme camp next year. Generally, both themes are within my skill set. 


In other news: I still really, really, really miss DSL service. Maybe I'll have it back tomorrow. Maybe. Oh, how I hope it will return...


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:29 PM

Sunday, November 08, 2009

My syrupy Internet connection

  Have you ever thought of your high speed Internet account as being thick and gooey?  That is how I'm thinking of mine now. 

I closed one account/package with my DSL carrier, and opened a new service package in my name, tied to my cellular service.   The old phone plus DSL lines were disconnected Friday. The new DSL cannot be switched on because (among other reasons) some time must pass for the signal to "drain."

Excuse me?

I was hoping for additional explanations, such as, "and that takes longer in winter, because the lines are cold."

If I'm suspiciously quiet when I should be blogging about my recent trip to NYC, about how Harvard has come right out and said that meat is bad for you, or about how much I miss late summer's sweet, pale green plums, you'll have to wait until I have DSL again, perhaps by late Wednesday night. 

Unless the signal freezes, or is eaten by ants.

On a related note: if you have a home phone number for me in your phone book, strike it out.  


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:53 PM

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