Oct 30, 2011

Multi-cultural Portobellos

I had a plan ... but it somehow got a little bit twisted. It was to be stuffed Portobellos for dinner, but it ended up being a romp through the atlas.


  • 2 large portobello mushrooms (Italy or France)
  • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (Italian seasoning)
  • 4 Tbs olive oil (Greece)
  • 3 Tbs hummus (Lebanon with miso from Japan)
  • 4 small purple potatoes (Peru) 
  • 1 dried bird chili (Thailand)


  1. Start heating oven to 350.
  2. Mix breadcrumbs, 2 Tbs olive oil, and hummus in a small bowl.
  3. Oil a baking pan.
  4. Stuff mushrooms with contents of bowl.
  5. Place on baking pan.
  6. Grind chili to flakes or powder.
  7. Dust chilis on mushrooms.
  8. Cut purple potatoes in half.
  9. Toss potatoes with olive oil.
  10. Place potatoes on baking pan cut side down.
  11. Place pan in oven for 30 minutes.
  12. Serve, but let it rest a bit because the stuffing takes a while to cool to an edible temperature.
Add in the cup of Lapsang Souchong (China) that I had while I was cooking and the glass of single malt from Scotland that I'm sipping as I write, and I feel every inch the world traveler.

Day 22/180: Hummus

I made hummus this afternoon.


  • 1/2 pound dried chickpeas
  • Lots of water
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs cumin seed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Dried chilis
  • Optional (but you're really missing out if you don't) 1-2 Tbs sweet white miso
  • 2+ Tbs tahini


  1. Cook the chickpeas over low heat until very soft. (A couple of hours should do it even if you didn't soak them.) Add more water when necessary.
  2. Let them cool.
  3. Mince the garlic.
  4. Grind the cumin and chilis to a powder.
  5. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid.
  6. Put everything but the liquid into a food processor.
  7. Turn on the food processor.
  8. Slowly add the liquid until the hummus gets to a consistency that you like.

Store in the fridge (it won't get a chance to expire).

Day 21/180: Get thee behind me ...

I had a Twilight Zone moment in the local grocery store. I was in the baking aisle, hoping that they would have a product that I wanted to try. They did. There weren't any price tags on the bag, so I looked at the shelf tag. I winced, and then I did a double-take and burst out laughing. The wince was for the price. The local market jacks the prices way up and this stuff was about twice as much as I thought it would be.

The double-take and laughter was for the label attached to the shelf tag which read in large friendly letters "GLUTEN-FREE".

I was buying wheat gluten.

I pointed this out to the folks at the store and they hurriedly corrected it. I bought the bag and brought it home to try to make seitan. (See! That's what makes the title of the post a joke, Tom said devilishly.) It worked too, although based on the first batch I'm going to have to do some tweaking to get it closer to what I want.

Essentially, you take a cup of gluten and put it in a bowl, add dry spices, add a cup of water, mix it until it all blends together, put it on the counter and knead it for a while, then slice it, flatten the pieces, and boil it in broth or stock for about an hour. Easy-peasy.

Take it out and let it drain for a bit. If you are eating it alone, It will be enough for at least three meals. Last night I dredged two pieces in breadcrumbs, fried it like a steak with onions. A baked potato rounded out the meal.

Next time, I think I'll hold back on the water and add some Hoisin in place of it. I'm also thinking about using some good chili powder right in the stuff.

In order to be frugal about it, it would be a good idea to have some vegetables or dhal ready for the broth so that after the seitan comes out, you can start a soup with the broth that you cooked it in.

Day 20/180: Eating on the run, badly

I was in a rush all day. I had some work to get done early and then drove to the South Shore to help my mother with some moving. On a weekend I can make the drive in about 45 minutes; weekdays it's more like 2+ hours.

I ended up staying longer than I had intended, so instead of doing some shopping at the Whole Foods near where she lives, I just skipped it and got back on the highway north. I was tired, irritable, and hungry by the time I got onto Route 1. I stopped to get some coffee at a Starbucks and grabbed one of their roasted vegetable panini. I was back on the highway and chewing the first big bite before I thought to pry up the top slice. Arrrrrgh, cheese!

I thought about it for a minute or so before deciding that ingesting a single fragment of provolone was better than stewing and grumping for another 30 minutes of stop-n-go traffic. I wasn't happy about it, but it really was my own damn fault. Had I read the package better, I could have asked them to remove the cheese before heating the sandwich.

I have been so diligent otherwise that I am not overly nervous about a thin slice of fermented milk undoing all my good work. If I were a moralist, I'd still be going on and on about it ... oh wait ....

Later that night I put together dish using TVP sausage and couscous. I've mentioned the texture and sliminess before, I won't mention it again because I won't be buying it again.

Oct 27, 2011

Day 19/180: Roast vegetables with kasha

It is a cold, wet, and gray day here in New England. Yesterday the leaves were just starting to turn, today it looks like they're gone. There's a blustery wind outside flinging handfuls of raindrops at my window and a damp chill pervades everything.

A good day to use the oven.

Roast Vegetables With Kasha

  • 6 small potatoes
  • 18 fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 4 slices portobello mushroom
  • 1 large carrot
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup kasha
  • 1 cup v. stock 
  • 1/3 cup dried mushrooms


  1. Heat the oven to 400
  2. Cut the potatoes in half.
  3. Cut the carrot into app 4" lengths, then quarter it lengthwise making thick carrot sticks.
  4. Trim about 1/8th" off the stem off each sprout an strip off any wilted leaves.
  5. Remember to put all trimmings into the stock pot.
  6. Cut each sprout in half across the stem.
  7. Put the potatoes, carrots, and sprouts int a large bowl.
  8. Douse the vegetables with olive oil and toss well.
  9. Add balsamic vinegar and toss some more.
  10. Arrange in a flat bottom roasting pan cut side down.
  11. Gently coat the mushrooms with what's left of the marinade.
  12. Add them to the roasting pan.
  13. Put the roasting pan into the oven for 30 minutes.
  14. Put a large saucepan on medium.
  15. Add the olive oil.
  16. Add the kasha.
  17. Stir until kasha sizzles and is fully coated with oil.
  18. Turn the heat down to simmer.
  19. Add the dried mushrooms.
  20. Add the stock.
  21. Stir.
  22. Cover.
  23. Turn the heat off under the pan and let it sit while you wait for ...
  24. When the vegetables are done, put a mound of kasha in the middle of the plate.
  25. Arrange vegetables around it.

I added a little puddle of tamarind chutney and another of cilantro chutney just to keep my tastebuds tickled.

Obviously this can be tweaked to your own preference or vegetable availability. Zucchini or summer squash would work well. Eggplant would take a little more prep.

Oct 26, 2011

Day 18/180: Willpower challenges

One of my deep-seated psychological problems is an aversion to waste. I am one of those people who gets more pleasure from turning the turkey carcass and the scrag-ends of vegetables into soup than I get from the original dinner. My youngest son won't eat leftovers usually and my wife always cooks more food than we need.

This is one of the reasons that I am fat. There is some kind of moral imperative hidden in my head that keeps saying to me, "You know they're not going to eat it. It will just sit in the refrigerator and dry out or go bad If you don't eat it. Only you can save it from being wasted." I'm sure this moral imp was put there by my parents. Leaving food on your plate was a mortal sin which would have my father intoning:
"Waste not, want not,
for you shall live to say
ah how I wish I had the crust
that once I threw away."
Last night there was a hamburger left over from dinner and left out to tease me. I resisted, and I believe that it was finally fed to the dog (who is boarding with us for a few days and is also not supposed to have it). Tonight there are the remnants of a fish chowder in a pot on the back of the stove. It will migrate into the fridge where it will be forgotten until the archaeologists find it.

I love fish chowder. In addition to hating the waste of it, I really love the stuff. I can deal with the burgers, the steak tips, the turkey, the bacon, etc. I just have to get past the revulsion against throwing food out. But there are things I really miss like: fish and clam chowders, oysters, mussels, cheeses of all varieties, hard Italian sausages like salami and pepperoni.

Why am I torturing myself.

Tonight's dinner was not recipe-worthy though it was tasty. I prepared some kasha (buckwheat groats) with mushrooms and vegetable bouillon. Then I made a roux with whole wheat flour and olive oil, added a salt-free Cajun spice mix for some flavor and added 2/3 cup each of frozen corn and frozen peas. I put the latter on top of the former and there was dinner.

It wasn't quite as satisfying as I wanted so now I'm having a small bowl of muesli with unsweetened soy milk and washing it down with a cup of peppermint tea.

Buettner's TED Talk on How To Live To 100

It looks like I have some more stuff to think about changing.

ETA: I used to have the talk embedded here but it was loading really slowly so I have deleted it in favor of just providing a link to it. It's not as sexy technologically but it is far less frustrating.


It's a very interesting talk.

Oct 25, 2011

Day 17/180: One way of making vegetable soup

I love soup. The chill this evening inspired me to make some:

Simple Vegetable Soup

  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 12 baby carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 medium potato
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs South River 3 Year Barley Miso Any akamiso (red Miso) will do, but boy do I love this stuff from SRMC.
  • 1/3 cup dehydrated assorted mushrooms (I used shiitake, enoki, and cloud ear.)
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 small pitas
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • Za'atar or other favored spice mix


  1. Slice the celery into 1/2" pieces.
  2. Cut the carrots in half (against the grain).
  3. Dice the onion.
  4. Cut the potatoes into cubes.
  5. Put the stock into a large saucepan on low.
  6. Add everything but the miso.
  7. Go play a game of Qwirkle with your significant other.
  8. Stir the soup.
  9. Go play a game of Scrabble with your SO.
  10. Set oven to 350.
  11. Split the pitas so they are only one layer thick.
  12. Put them on a cookie sheet with the insides facing up.
  13. Douse them with about a tsp of olive oil each.
  14. Sprinkle with Za'atar or other seasoning.
  15. Put pitas in the oven.
  16. Add the miso to the soup and stir well.
  17. When pitas are toasted to a golden brown (I prefer them dark brown), serve the soup with the pita on the side. You can eat them with the soup or crumble them into it.

Day 16/180: Late posting

It was a slapdash dinner last night. Here's a bit of doggerel about it:

Chana dhal, green pea, and tomato curry
makes a good meal if you're in a hurry.
Throw it all together in a nice big pan
Pour it on brown rice and eat it with naan.

Oct 22, 2011

Why so solitary?

You could easily assume, and probably should, that the reason that I am solitary is that no-one wants to listen to me rattle on about things.

It's a good thing for me that my blog is a captive audience. It's probably a good thing for you that you can skip all the dull parts.

Autumn Sunset Soup

At the risk of sounding like I have a crush, my love affair with South River Miso continues. Dinner tonight was straight out of their recipe book, which is straight off there website, which means less typing for me!! W00t!!

The only change I made is that having a superfluity of fresh ginger, I added about a finger-sized piece (minced) at the beginning of the cooking. Click on the link below for the recipe:

Autumn Sunset Soup

Day 15/180: Continued ranting about diet

Humans are omnivorous in order to take advantage of multiple streams of nutrition. This ability, however, doesn’t mean that we must ingest everything, it merely means we can ingest a wide variety of animal and vegetable foods depending on the environment.

People adapted over millennia to eat what is local to them. People whose ancestors migrated to an environment where there is little vegetation and a short growing season, adapted to a high fat, meat-based diet, others whose ancestors found a home on tropical islands have adapted to a fruit and fish diet.

Being omnivorous lets us adapt to our environment in many different ways, and nature helped us evolve to fit those environments. That's why there are healthy people in cultures that do not eat meat, or don't use dairy products, or whose main source of protein is fish.

Large groups of humans have prejudices and taboos against food that is considered perfectly edible by others. There are many who consider bugs tasty and others the find them repellent. Huge populations have cultural biases against pork. And these groups are all healthy. Some are much healthier than those of us living here in the US.

The problem is that our global mobility has outstripped the speed at which evolution works. In the US especially we are now a blend are often a blend of multiple genetic variations with varying abilities to cope with the massive amount and variety of food that is available to us.

What this means is that we have more choice. By this I do not mean the varieties of food, but the exclusion of food types. I do not need to eat meat or dairy since I can get just as usable protein, minerals, and vitamins from an herbivorous diet. My body may argue with me a bit at first, but so long as I choose my nutrition thoughtfully, I can eat any way that I decide to. In other words, I can select to remove certain things from my diet in the knowledge that I can make up for their nutrients in a different way.

I don’t consider myself “vegan” (which to me is a moral stance rather than a health choice) but my diet is close to that standard. I call myself an herbivore, and I feel comfortable with having made the choice to eliminate certain classes of foods from my diet because I’m smart enough and careful enough to eat a diet that is as well balanced as any omnivore’s.

On hearing this argument of mine, someone asked:
"Don’t you think that selection from various cultures can have risks. In each culture, people learned how to balance locally various types. Americans by extracting various foods out of the context probably risk imbalance. If one selects some food because of several minerals for example, one can miss the fact that this food has also components which in the “mother” culture were balanced by something, but are not balanced in a new culture or can risk duplication/overdosing of some nutrients."
It’s way too late to worry about that. Unless one is a member of a geographically or culturally remote community, the mixture of different types of food sources is too well entrenched to avoid.

Take, for example, the tomatoes for the ubiquitous Italian red sauce, potatoes, avocados, bananas, mangos, etc. These are foods that have been transplanted and are now considered native to places that had never known them 200 years ago, others are: coffee, pistachios, olives, etc. No. That horse is out of the barn and ten miles down the road. Even people who are kosher, hallal, or macrobiotic eat foods that have drifted in from other cultures and other regions.

The way to deal with it is to use an open and intelligent mind to judge one’s own health and proceed accordingly. Blindly following the ideas of experts has seldom proven to be a good food strategy, but it’s something we all do from time to time. At the risk of sounding a bit new age, we really need to look at ourselves, our bodies and our minds, and start to keep track of what is good for us, and what is just easy.

That's what my experiment is about. I'm not concerned about the veracity or faults of Esselstyn and Campbell, I'm just curious about whether removing animal products from my diet makes me healthier and makes me feel better. In fact, having found out that their diet also involves 0 fats, a thing that was barely alluded to in the movie, I find that I'm not on their recommended diet.

This is my experiment and I'll use my parameters.

Oct 21, 2011

Baked Tofu with Miso

In honor of the South River delivery, I decided to make a dish with it tonight. I think it came out well.

  • 1/2 pound firm tofu
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbs miso (In this case it was Three Year Barley Miso)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs almond butter
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Handful of raisins or dried currants
  1. Drain tofu.
  2. Place tofu on a plate with a weight on top for a couple of hours.
  3. Pour excess tofu liquid into stock pot.
  4. Put rice. turmeric, raisins, and stock into rice cooker and turn it on.
  5. Portion tofu into 1/2" slices.
  6. Mince garlic.
  7. Set broiler on low.
  8. Mix everything except the tofu until smooth.
  9. Dip tofu slices into miso mixture.
  10. Put tofu slices onto a greased baking pan.
  11. Put pan under broiler for about 10-12 minutes.
  12. Flip the slices.
  13. Put pan back under broiler for 10-12 minutes.
  14. Put rice in center of plate and arrange the tofu slices around it.

If there is any leftover miso mixture, pour it on the rice.

Day 14/180: Mid-afternoon bliss

A few days ago I ordered a sampler from South River Miso Company. I got an email this morning saying that it had shipped yesterday and I should expect it today. It arrived about an hour ago. Lots of points for good service.

I had planned to wait until I had tried all four varieties then review all of them in a single post. Of the four types, the one I was most intrigued by was the Dandelion Leek.

Here's how the company describes it:
Each spring, during the last week of April, we take to the woods to gather Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum, also called Ramps). We cook them along with Dandelion greens, dried nettles, and Maine coast sea vegetables. Then these are hand chopped and mixed together with Hearty Brown Rice Miso (already aged for two years) and Sweet Tasting Brown Rice Miso (already aged for three months). This mixture is then aged for one full summer.
Of course it was the first one I tried.

I put a heaping teaspoon of the miso into a mug with some toasted and crumbled nori, poured not-quite boiling water over it and stirred it up. Then I took it out to the back porch to drink.

My thought after the first sip was, "Damn! that's good!"

My thought after the second sip was, "That jar isn't going to last too long."

If the others are as good, I'll have to consider buying in larger quantities.

Oct 20, 2011

Some whine for the cook

TVP is a term that is starting to grate on my nerves, but all the alternatives sound like (and probably are) brand names. Soyburger, veggieburger, soymeat, . . . Gah!

Changing to an expanded abbreviation gives me Tevepro which is easy to say but sounds like an anti-depressant. Protose has already been used, Promince sounds like margarine, Protease is an enzyme . . . I wish this didn't bother me so much. There's just something about those letters that irritates me.

Wait! Maybe I could use Vitameatavegemin!?

Or maybe not.

Cooking for one

Part of the problem when cooking for one person is trying to get the amounts right. It is so easy to prepare what seems to be a small meal and end up with enough for several days.

For example: yesterday I prepared two cups of TVP and used half of it for a very nice chili. Using half of it means, of course, that I have to use up the rest. I could leave it in the fridge, but it takes up space that the household omnivores need.

So tonight I whipped together a kind of curried "sloppy joe" thing and put it on some couscous. It was tasty but unworthy of a recorded recipe.

Note to self: Make up one cup of TVP at a time and find some alternative recipes before doing it again.

Day 13/180: Forks Over Knives

I started this diet experiment after watching the documentary "Forks Over Knives". The arguments for cardiac health through diet, although suspiciously grandiose, were interesting enough for me to suppress my disbelief in a dietary panacea and try living as an herbivore to see if it made a difference.

I started the diet well-aware of the fact that my eating habits would change dramatically even though I was already predominantly ovo-lacto vegetarian. Removing all animal-based foods from my diet would mean that I would have to be far more aware of ingredients than I had been. Even more daunting was the fact that I would be giving up most snacking and casual eating. Restaurants, for example, would require prior research or odd menu choices.

As I mentioned before, I don't eschew animal foods through any moral or spiritual imperative (although in recent years I have found myself less comfortable with the products of factory farms). My altogether selfish goal for this diet is to improve my health. The suggestions of Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn were radical enough to be interesting, and I do well at self-denial only if it is radical.

But I do not live in a vacuum. I like to know more about things. So I find myself delighted by this post "Forks Over Knives: is the science legit" over on the Raw Food SOS blog, which calls into question some of the assumptions made in the documentary and by the two doctors.

The reality check does not persuade me to abandon my experiment (I feel that it continues to be worthy of a trial), but it does help put things in better perspective. I like bringing commitment to a project, but it doesn't mean I'm going to drink the Kool-aid (yeccch).

Oct 19, 2011

Weaseling a bit

The review makes it sound as if I've been using it for longer than I have, but I had to use the choices they gave me.

My Review of Bob's Red Mill TVP (Textured Veg. Protein)

Originally submitted at Bob's Red Mill

TVP® (Textured Vegetable Protein) is made from reduced-fat soy beans and is used to replace or extend ground meats. It is also added to casseroles to add extra flavor and nutrition.

Excellent Product

By A Solitary Herbivore from New England on 10/19/2011


5out of 5

Pros: Satisfying, Healthy, Easy to use, Easy To Make, Flavorful, Vegetarian, Unique

Cons: None

Best Uses: Cooking

Describe Yourself: Health Conscious, Vegetarian

I use this as a meat substitute in my recipes. It is very easy to reconstitute and I can add flavor during that process. The texture and mouth-feel are far superior to products that are sold already hydrated. I love this stuff.


Day 12/180: Chili con TVP

The chili is simmering away on the back of the stove. I can already tell that it is going to be a great success. As I mentioned in my last post, I suspected that the tube packages of flavored TVP had not been stored properly either in transit or by the grocer. I think that my suspicions were justified. Either that or the protein just degrades over the period between hydration and sale.

Today I hydrated 2 cups of Bob's Red Mill TVP with 1.75 cups of vegetable bouillon. The result was a product that had a good texture and a slightly resistant bite. It was not slimy or sticky at all. I am very surprised at the difference in quality.

I made chili with it. It's a very simple recipe, and a very tasty one. It still has another hour or so to go, but early sampling tells me that it is going to be excellent.

Chili con TVP
  • Cleaver
  • Cutting board
  • Bowl
  • Medium saucepan
  • 1 cup TVP
  • 7/8 cup vegetable bouillon or stock
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked beans 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • (Optional) Cayenne (I like a lot of heat.)
  1. Boil the vegetable bouillon.
  2. Put the TVP into the bowl.
  3. Add boiling bouillon to the TVP.
  4. Stir and set aside.
  5. Mince the garlic.
  6. Dice the onion.
  7. Put the saucepan on medium.
  8. Add oil and heat until it sizzles (or is ready to).
  9. Add the garlic, onion, and cumin (if whole otherwise add with the chili powder).
  10. Saute for a minute or two.
  11. Add the spices and stir quickly.
  12. Add the TVP and stir quickly until spices seem well-distributed.
  13. Add the tomatoes.
  14. Add the beans.
  15. Stir well.
  16. When mixture starts to bubble, lower heat to simmer (or lower if possible).
  17. Let it cook for 60 to 90 minutes stirring occasionally.
Serve over rice or noodles, or all by itself in a bowl with some pita bread on the side.

Oct 18, 2011

TVP experiment tomorrow

I've used TVP a couple of times, but it has been the pre-hydrated, flavored stuff in the tube. (I like puns,  but for pity's sake "Gimme Lean" sausage is a little much.) I picked up some dry TVP the other day and I'm curious to see if it is easier to work with.

The pre-moistened stuff is extremely sticky and has a somewhat slimy feel. I find that I have to add breadcrumbs to get the consistency to one that I like. It also sticks to my hands in a disconcerting way. I can't be sure, but I suspect that the local supermarket may not be storing it properly.

So tomorrow I'm going to make some chili from a recipe that I have that uses bulghur as a meat substitute and use TVP re-hydrated with vegetarian bouillon in place of the wheat.

That last phrase, meat substitute, would really bother me if I were a vegan rather than an herbivore. I am so bound up by meanings that the term meat substitute would make me think that I was using a spiritual loophole since, if I am going to avoid meat, I should avoid anything that even seems like meat. But therein lies madness, so I'm glad that my parameters are determined by physical rather than spiritual health.

Leftovers for dinner

A nice person shared some herbivorous Dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice) with me at lunch time, so tonight I had the rest of the spaghetti squash . . .

. . . which had been marinating all night and all day in Sriracha Sauce.

Day 11/180: Napolitano style

When I was young, I lived in Naples, Italy for several years. To be exact, for the first year or so I lived on Capo Posillipo on the northern edge of the bay with Vesuvius on the far side. The apartment we lived in was right at the water's edge in a repurposed old fortress called Villa Volpicelli.
Villa Volpicelli
If you look at the left-hand tower, you'll see a wrap-around balcony. That's the first floor. We lived on the second floor. The tower room was, as I remember, a combination living and dining room. There were painted ceramic tiles for the floor and frescoes on the ceiling.

Count four windows to the right and that is where the kitchen was. We had a cook and housekeeper named Teresa who prepared amazingly delicious meals with the most basic equipment.

She was certainly a fantastic and talented cook, but part of the secret to her fabulous meals was that the ingredients were so fresh. Most of the ingredients were bought on the day that the dish was prepared and almost all of them had been purchased within the week. Shopping was generally done in three ways; going to market, sending to market, or buying from vendors.

Going to market with Teresa was like going to the theater. She was a small woman but she loomed large in her stubborn intent to not pay more than she wanted to. Like many Neapolitans, Teresa was flamboyantly voluble. She would be operatically horrified that a quarter of a bushel of ripe peaches direct from the orchard was going to cost 200 lira (32 US cents at that time), she would press the back of her hand against her forehead and start to swoon like a Victorian lady with "the vapors", only to instantly recover and start to scream at the shop owner for having the gall to try to rip her off.

Teresa did not send to market. but many families did, especially those who lived in the tall walk-ups. The  grocer's boy, or baker's boy, etc. would walk down the street letting people know he was there with a distinctive call and waiting. Baskets were lowered by cords from the upper story windows with lists of what was needed. The runner would go back to the store, pick up the goods, and put them in the basket to be hauled back up. Depending on the trustworthiness of the runner, money would be put in the basket or the shopkeeper would keep an account.

My favorite were the vendors, particularly the olive vendor. He would appear every couple of days. Since the windows of the villa were set back from the street, he would knock for the porter to let him in.

(There's a door just outside the picture to the right.) Balancing four large wooden tubs on his head, he'd climb the stairs to the large courtyard one level above the street and give a shout to let us know he was there. If I was home at the time, I'd go down with Teresa's order. She didn't have to dicker with him because she knew him. I think he may have been a cousin. He would fill the containers with black or green olives or capers and I'd give him a handful of coins. He would always give me a handful of olives for my own and I would stand there and eat them as I watched him wrap his head with a towel and lift the tower of tubs back up and balance it.

I've been thinking about this lately because I've started getting into the habit of buying what I need for meals on the day that I cook.

This may have been too much information. Mi scusi.

Oct 17, 2011

Day 10/180: Spaghetti Squash with Almond Sauce

This was tonight's dinner, and there was enough left over for a late night snack. I meant to make a peanut sauce, but decided to try using almond butter instead. There was too much spaghetti squash for a meal for one person. I used two thirds of it for this recipe.


  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1" cube ginger
  • 2 Tbs almond butter
  • 2 Tbs Hoi Sin sauce
  • 1 Thai bird pepper (dry)
  • Peanut oil
  • Water


  1. Heat oven to 375.
  2. Pierce the squash a couple of places with a skewer.
  3. Place on a baking pan in the oven.
  4. Bake for 60 minutes.
  5. Let it cool for 30 minutes.
  6. Mince the celery, garlic, and ginger.
  7. Heat a small skillet on medium.
  8. Add a dollop or two of oil.
  9. Saute the celery, garlic, and ginger.
  10. Crush a dried bird pepper (or some other good chili) and add it to the pan.
  11. Turn the heat down to low.
  12. Add the almond butter and Hoi Sin.
  13. Mix well adding water to thin it to a pourable consistency.
  14. Remove from heat.
  15. Slice the squash in half.
  16. Remove the seeds with a spoon.
  17. Tease (gently) the spaghetti-like threads out of the shell with a fork. (All that should be left of the squash when you're done is a very thin shell.)
  18. Pour the sauce over the squash and toss to mix well.

As I said, there was too much squash, so I put about a third of it into a covered bowl mixed it with some Sriracha pepper sauce and I'll fry that up for lunch tomorrow.

Day 9/180: Let's do the time warp again

For some reason my blog entries seem to have skipped a day, and then I complicated things by skipping one myself. Today's posts should get things caught up.

First, although I intended to make Ashe Reshteh for Sunday dinner, I did not. I lucked into a trio of fine portobello mushrooms and since I seldom tire of mushrooms, I stuffed them with a mixture of sauteed onion, bell pepper and sausage flavored TVP. I baked them on a pizza pan for about 20 minutes.

I plated them with a couscous and grated carrot salad and a dollop of green tomato chutney.

Oct 16, 2011

Day 8/180: Taking my wife out to dinner

No home cooking tonight. I need a break and there were a lot of errands to do. I took my wife to a local restaurant where she had some crazy combination of mango shrimp and chicken. I had a hijiki salad and and vegetarian pad thai. There was a time when I would have been delighted that the hijiki came with a beautiful scoop of  tobiko (flying fish roe), but today I had to scrape it off and let my wife have it.

Tomorrow Ashe Reshteh!

Oct 14, 2011

Day 7/180: Portobello Steaks

Not much time today, so I have to keep this short.


  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt


  1. Heat oven to 375.
  2. Clean the mushrooms and remove stems.
  3. Mince stems.
  4. Crush and mince garlic.
  5. Mix stems, garlic, bread crumbs, oil and vinegar.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. Oil a baking pan with olive oil.
  8. Place mushroom caps in the baking pan smooth side down.
  9. Fill with mixture.
  10. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top.
  11. Put in oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Served tonight with Couscous and a small tossed salad.

Oct 13, 2011

I'm gonna need a bigger pot

Eating my black bean soup reminds me that I have a recipe for Ashe Reshteh that a friend of mine sent me. It's a thick noodle and lentil soup that I've been planning to make. The traditional recipe uses whey and beef broth, but I have some thoughts on how to get around that.

The problem is that it is a hard soup to make in small quantities. I will need to develop my strategy and perhaps cook it on Sunday.

Soup and sandwich

Yeah, I know, sort of a boring dinner, but I'm feeling a little under the weather and not in the mood to do anything too fancy. When I made that black bean soup the other day, I froze half of it. That's what I'll have tonight with a peanut butter sandwich on rye toast.

It has been a leftover kind of day. I had leftover quinoa for breakfast. The remains of a micro-green salad for lunch, and frozen soup for dinner.

Hey! Being an herbivore doesn't mean feasts and fantastic dishes every day of the week. Some of us have to get some writing done now and then. This is especially true if, like me, you're only cooking for one and sharing kitchen space with unrepentant carnivores.

Soup and sammich it is.

Day 6/180: Bad news, Good news

The bad news, my first scheduled gym session didn't happen. The good news, I stacked a quarter cord of wood in the rain this morning. The bad news, then other things got in the way. The good news, I'll try again tomorrow.

I'm aiming for an 0630 start.

Oct 12, 2011


“ . . . living organisms, including people,are merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out at the other, which both keeps them doing it and in the long run wears them out. So to keep the farce going, the tubes find ways of making new tubes, which also put things in at one end and let them out at the other. At the input end they even develop ganglia of nerves called brains, with eyes and ears, so that they can more easily scrounge around for things to swallow. As and when they get enough to eat, they use up their surplus energy by  wiggling in complicated patterns, making all sorts of noises by blowing air in and out of the input hole, and gathering together in groups to fight with other groups. In time, the tubes grow such an abundance of attached appliances that they are hardly recognizable as mere tubes, and they manage to do this in a staggering variety of forms. There is a vague rule not to eat tubes of your own form, but in general there is serious competition as to who is going to be the top type of tube. All this seems marvelously futile, and yet, when you begin to think about it, it begins to be more marvelous than futile. Indeed, it seems extremely odd.”
― Alan Watts

Dinner results

The Teriyaki Chickpeas were excellent. As I mentioned I made a change to the recipe, adding a teaspoonful of Thai Chili Garlic paste instead of the Szechuan Sauce. It was a great substitution since it gave it a powerful chili bite. I also used quinoa instead of rice and homemade green tomato chutney instead of mango salsa. Very good and very filling.

Day 5/180: Teriyaki Chickpeas

Tonight, I'm making Teriyaki Chickpeas from the Happy Herbivore blog. I won't repeat her recipe here just link to it. I will modify it slightly by using Thai garlic Chili Garlic Paste instead of Szechuan sauce.

It has been a long day. I was driving around for most of it, but I did have an excellent vegetable sandwich for lunch. I did notice some stray decorative particles of what may have been Pamesan cheese on the surface of the bread, but I brushed most off and ignored the rest. I'm not counting that a failure.

Tomorrow morning will be my first exercise session to count. I'm starting with 3 times a week and we'll see how it goes.

Oct 11, 2011

Spaghetti alla tincan

Dinner tonight was very last minute. No photos and barely a recipe.


  • big pot
  • high-sided skillet
  • knife 
  • cutting board
  • colander
  • can opener


  • 2 leeks (Thank goodness that's the end of them for a while)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup bulghur
  • 1 large can pear tomatoes crushed or whole 
  • 1 portion dried whole wheat spaghetti


  1. Fill the big pot with water.
  2. Put it on big burner on high.
  3. Add a pinch of salt
  4. Wash leeks well.
  5. Slice leeks into 1/2 inch slices.
  6. Crush and mince garlic.
  7. Open can of tomatoes (If the tomatoes are whole, put the in a bowl and crush them betwen your fingers. You might as well get some fun out of this. If you're doing this in front of company, it is always a good idea to ostentatiously wash your hands first.)
  8. Put skillet on medium high.
  9. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil to the skillet.
  10. Add the garlic to the oil, followed by the leeks, and then the bulghur.
  11. Stir until ingredients are well-coated.
  12. Add the tomatoes.
  13. Stir until it bubbles nicely.
  14. Turn the heat down to medium.
  15. The water for the spaghetti should be boiling. Add the spaghetti to it.
  16. When the spaghetti is done, the sauce should be ready. (If it's not as thick as you like, add some breadcrumbs.
I like adding some chilis with the garlic to make it more like an "arrabbiata".

Day 4/180: An additional challenge

I got back from the gym a short time ago. Getting regular exercise is part of the regimen that my cardiologist insists on. In order to keep myself on track, I meet with a personal trainer once a week. This ensures that I exercise at least once a week. Often that means that I do exercise once a week.

Today was that day.

After forcing my body to perform some contortions that it believes it shouldn't, I was sitting on a weight bench, panting and wiping the sweat off with a big colorful bandana as my relentless torturer trainer cheerfully surveyed my condition of inflexible weakness. To avoid further pain and suffering, I told my trainer, who shall remain nameless, about this blog.

"The idea, Brandon, (that nameless thing didn't last long did it) is that by making my effort public, I'll be too embarrassed to fail. That way I'll keep to my goals. Maybe I should think about including my workou ... "

There was a glint in Brandon's eye. "Yes," he said. "You should, put the days that you do your workout and the excuses why you didn't."

My heart sank.

" ... and send me the link," he said, "I'm going to track you."

So I came home and made up a salad of micro greens with an olive oil and tamarind chutney dressing, then sat in the sun on the back porch to eat it.

Now I'm at the computer having made the decision.

Day 4/180: Rowing & weight training 90 min,

We'll see how it goes Brandon

Simplicity and garlic

I used to be a technical writer. For years I struggled to explain complex software to people who just want to get the job done and go home. One of the things I noticed is that often when we try to make things simple, we  actually make them unnecessarily complicated.

A good example is how we deal with garlic. I use a lot of garlic. I consider the allium family a food group. The problem is that working with garlic requires that the cook develop a simple skill, removing the skin from the clove. It's not hard to do. Most of the time you're going to mince the clove, so a smack with the side of the cleaver or knife will both flatten the clove nicely and loosen the skin so it's easy to remove. Then you just cut off the hard tip and mince it.

It boggles my mind how far people will go to avoid doing this simple kitchen job. I was in a kitchen store the other day, to buy a couple of large storage jars and I noticed that they had an entire section of tools dedicated to the single purpose of skinning and mincing garlic cloves, and I realized that were I to outfit my kitchen with the full panoply of garlic utensils, it would cost hundreds of dollars and fill all my drawers with junk. There are: garlic presses, garlic twists, garlic rolls, garlic crushers, garlic choppers garlic peelers, garlic slicers, garlic graters, garlic planes, garlic mandolins, garlic shakers, garlic roasters, garlic bakers, garlic savers, garlic keepers, single-purpose electric garlic roasters and something called a garlic zoom. Holy Mackerel! Garlic management seems to have reached a crisis point.

I do not use a special tube or roll or mechanical device to take the skin off. I do not use a garlic press to mash it up. I hate cleaning garlic presses. I'm sure that people who have any of these fancy tools that get clogged with pulp and skins must own dishwashers. I don't. I wash everything by hand and I dislike things that take a long time to clean. I don't buy special garlic jars.I use garlic often enough to avoid long periods of storage.  

It may sound a bit as if I am making a virtue out of necessity, and perhaps that's part of it, but I really do  like my kitchen simple. This is personal opinion. I don't really care what tools other people use, and some of my favorite cooks use some crazy space age gadgets. I, myself, have a food processor, a toaster, a microwave, a rice cooker, and a refrigerator, so I'm not some intense Luddite, but most of my cooking is done with a cleaver a cutting board  and a couple of pots.

It ain't macrobiotic but it is a kind of zen. 

Oct 10, 2011

Mujadarrah and Pita Crisps with Za'atar

Two problems have caused a change in my plans for dinner:

  1. I have run out of tahini.
  2. I am too lazy to go out and get some.
So I'm sticking with the za'atar pita crisps, but I'm going to have them with an easy rice cooker mujadarrah.

The first part is simple I split two whole wheat pitas giving me four rounds which fit nicely on a pizza pan, spread some olive oil on each and dusted them with a generous portion of za'atar spice. Then I pop them into the oven at 350 until crispy. 

The mujadarra is equally easy. All you need is a rice cooker.

  • 1/3 cup rice
  • 1/3 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated vegetables
  • 1 Tbs (more or less) curry powder
  • 1 and 1/3 cups water or veg stock
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Put everything in the rice cooker
  2. Wait until done.
In the picture below, the pita looks a little burnt. It is. That's how I like it. There's one of the benefits of being a lonely herbivore; personal preference rules.

You might be wondering ...

If this guy's just starting an animal-free diet, where is he getting all these recipes and all this experience from? 

Well for years I have tried to eat a more vegetarian diet. I have tons of recipes. My youngest daughter is vegetarian and has been so for most of her life and some of what I cook was originally meant to keep her from having to eat her mom's default vegetarian offering of a baked potato and salad for the fifth night in a row.

But even my daughter's vegetarianism is easier than this. She eats dairy products and (I believe) uses eggs in cooking. I could get along easily on that diet. As I've mentioned before, the thing that I miss most poignantly is cheese.

But this is something I have to try and so I'll have to get used to it. Posting here is my way of keeping myself on the track. I really don't want to report a failure but, if it happens, I will.

Day 3/180: Passing up an invitation

Sometimes it's just too hard to deal with the finickiness of being herbivorous. Today, for example, someone has offered to buy me lunch and I'm not going to take advantage of it. I know that his favorite restaurant has little in the way of strict vegetarian options. I could put together a meal from what they have, but today that's more effort than I want to make.

Instead, I'll stay home and write, listen to Vivaldi, walk in the backyard and contemplate whether to make vegetarian chili or za'atar flat bread with hummus and olives for dinner. Wait ... I just made up my mind. It's a hot day so flat bread is definitely called for with a nice salad.

Oct 9, 2011

Matchstick Stir-fry with Rice

This is a hearty stir-fry. It's a little too much for one meal so I expect to have some left for an evening snack.

  • High-sided skillet or wok
  • Rice cooker
  • Small saucepan
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Spatula
  • Small bowl
  • (Optional) 2 or three ramekins
Ingredients for Stir-Fry
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 8-10 baby carrots
  • 1 leek (substitute 1 medium onion or 5-6 scallions)
  • 1 1" cube fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs peanut oil
  • 1 Tbs corn or tapioca starch
  • 2 Tbs low sodium tamari
  • 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cold water
Ingredients for Rice
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • pinch of salt
  1. Put the dried mushrooms into the small bowl and pour the 1/3 cup cold water over them.
  2. Wash the vegetables well, especially the leek.
  3. Take of the top and bottom of the celery, the dark green portion of the leek, carrot greens and all other trimmings and put them in a small saucepan for stock.*
  4. Slice the carrots, pepper, and celery into matchsticks.
  5. take the seeds out of the cardamom pods and grind them to a powder.
  6. Put the cardamom, rice, water, and salt in the rice cooker and start it.
  7. Slice the leek into thin strips across the grain.
  8. Mince the ginger.
  9. Mince the garlic
  10. Put the wok or skillet on the stove over medium-high heat.
  11. Add the oil and coat the cooking surface.
  12. Add the following ingredients in order allowing 15 seconds between each ingredient: garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, peppers, leeks.
  13. Drain the mushrooms reserving the water.
  14. Add mushrooms to the wok.
  15. Mix the starch and tamari with the mushroom water.
  16. When the vegetables look done, remove the pan from the burner.
  17. Add the starch, tamari, water mix to the pan stirring as it thickens.
  18. Let it sit for a minute or two until the rice is done,
  19. Plate and eat.
*Don't waste your trimmings, they turn into vegetable stock.

Here are some progress photos:
The raw material

Ready for the pan. From 12 o'clock; peppers, carrots, garlic, leeks,celery, with ginger in the center

I use a suribachi to grind spices like cardamom. The shiitake is lounging in the ramekin next to the spice jar.

The finished product. Time to eat!
ETA: This was, in fact, far too much for a single meal so I had an evening snack and finished it off at breakfast. Next time I make it I will only use half the quantities listed above.

Pre-prandial rant on "vegan"

I've been doing a bit of reading about the terms "vegetarian" and "vegan". This sudden need to research was spurred by a post about whether honey is vegan at a blog I just found called Happy Herbivore.

It seems to me that although I am eating no animal products, which many people would call a "vegan" diet, using the term "vegan" carries a moral freight that I am not willing to take on. Please understand that I find the position that Lindsay Nixon takes in her post reasonable, and that I have no problem with people choosing not to eat certain things through personal conviction, but I ran into a couple of sites that were a bit strident about the eating of animals and animal products being immoral, and I do have a problem with that.

There's no doubt that, with the abundance of herbivorous foods we have these days we can choose not to eat animal products. There may be evidence that it would be better for our health, especially in the US, to choose not to eat animal products. But it is a choice that must be made personally, and intelligently.

The logic of my actions are clear to me. I want to live longer. I want to be healthier. I am willing to bet a six month animal product fast to see if it can be done. Very straightforward. I know what the parameters are, I know what the restrictions are, and I understand that certain things will be outside of my control but they don't matter since my goal is not to be "good" but to be healthy.

But when you make eating animal products a moral question, then the parameters that work for me get to be a little fuzzy.

I was reading a rant about the enslavement of bees (not on Happy Herbivore I'm glad to say), and my mind, with its usual disregard for productive work, said "Waitaminnit," and kicked me down the rabbit hole.

Just how much of a slavemaster am I? What constitutes cruelty and abuse? Where are the lines drawn? Animals die from human causes constantly and if we make it a question of morality then we have to accept all of those causes as being our fault. All of the road kill, all the birds and insects sucked into airplane engines, all the creatures mauled by ships' propellers, all the animals that die because of the roads or pipelines or powerlines or houses that confuse the environments and migration paths.

When you start making the argument moral, then your problem is how to justify the boundaries that you will have to draw. As Piet Hein said:
Our choicest plans
have fallen through,
our airiest castles
tumbled over,
because of lines
we neatly drew
and later neatly
stumbled over.

This isn't a new problem for me. I look at the religion in which the followers wear masks so as not to inhale innocent insects and wonder how they can justify walking, washing, eating, and drinking ... because some animals are going to perish because of those activities. What is the cut-off point? Where is the boundary of acceptable collateral damage.

Jeez ... now I'm ranting. Time to stop.

I guess I'll stick to being an "herbivore" or "strict vegetarian". It'll cause me less agita.

Day 2/180: My cleaver

I'll be making a stir-fry tonight. I'll post the recipe later, but here are the basic ingredients. Yes, those are leeks.

Right now I'd like to talk about my funky, old, but perfect cleaver. I've been trying to remember how long ago I got it. I bought it in Boston's Chinatown at one of the small groceries while I was working as a technical writer a few blocks away. It must have been in about 1993. That makes it 18 years old. I remember that when I bought it, it was the cheapest knife in the kitchen, about a quarter of the price of a Cutco utility knife (or whatever they're calling it these days). I think it came packaged with an utterly useless round cutting board.

It is my kitchen tool of choice. It's heavy but handles well and takes an edge beautifully with just a stroke or two of a steel. That's because it is made of mild steel. It discolors, but a little elbow grease usually takes care of that.

It has survived my wife drowning it in the sink and using it as a hammer. It has been lost, then found covered with rust, had the rust scrubbed off, been sharpened and oiled and been good as new. One of these days I'll have to spend some time to try to get rid of a nick in the blade.

In times past I used it on all types of food. I used the spine to tenderize beef, and the flat to beat chicken breasts into thin sheets. I've always used it for vegetables too. I can julienne, make rolling cuts, use the flat to smash garlic then mince it with the blade. I have big hands so the wide blade makes it easy to guide the blade with my knuckles when I'm doing thin slices.

A few weeks ago I gave it a good scrubbing, sharpened it, oiled it and gave orders that it was for my use only. No more meat for this cleaver.

Oct 8, 2011

Day 1/180: Bean Soup for dinner

I've decided that I will reset the six months to start from today.

I just set-up my dinner for tonight and it is so simple that it doesn't even call for recipe format.

Using the leftover vegetable stock from yesterday, I added enough water to bring it up to a total of 4 cups. I put it into a big saucepan on low at the back of the stove and added:
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube, 
  • 1 1/2 cups of a mixture of black beans, black-eyed peas, navy beans and pearled barley. 
  • 1 strip of dried kombu seaweed to minimize methane production, 
  • 1/3 cup of mixed dehydrated vegetables 
  • a big handful of dried shiitake because I love mushrooms. 
I'll let it cook all day and have it with bread tonight.

Oct 7, 2011

Bulghur with Spinach

Mark Bittman has a dandy recipe for Bulghur and Spinach today, which can be easily modified to exclude omnivorous elements.

Sandwiches and a spread

One of the challenges of this diet is the time of preparation. I find myself using simple sandwiches as a default. I've come up with a few variations that seem to help keep me from getting too bored.

Unsalted peanut butter starts to get on my nerves. Here are some ways I've brightened the stuff up:

  • Mrs. Dash spice mixes
  • A thin layer of miso on the other slice of bread
  • Hoi Sin sauce
  • Grilled in olive oil with garlic
  • Srirachi sauce.
Another type is the salad sandwich. Basically, it's lettuce, tomato, zucchini, onion, and any other raw veggies that you can manage within two slices of bread. The big changes for this type of sandwich is the condiments. Here are some of the things you can use to jazz it up.
  • Hummus (I make my own and have for years. I'll post the recipe soon.)
  • Baba Ganouj (I make this too.)
  • Tofu spread (The recipe for this is below.)
  • Chutney
  • etc.
Tofu Spread
Before we start, let's talk about spice mixes. As the French say, "Chacun a son gout." Each person has their own preference. I happen to like things that are strongly-flavored, spicy, and heavy with chili pepper. So in the recipe below, I'd probably use two teaspoons of curry or chili powder. Unless your tastes are similar, you should start with less and tweak it.

But I have also made it with extra garlic and a double fistful of basil leaves (yeah! damn good!). One of my favorites combined wasabi, crumbled nori seaweed, and a touch of soy sauce instead of salt. I've also made it with Cajun seasoning and with ... well you get the picture.

The beauty of tofu is that it provides a medium that has dense texture but little flavor, which makes it possible for you to indulge in some radical experimentation.

  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Food processor
  • Spatula
  • Storage container or jar
  • 1 block tofu (Many people like the texture of silken tofu but I prefer firm.)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Preferred spice mix
  • 1 garlic clove
  1. Crush and mince the garlic.
  2. Open the tofu package and drain it.
  3. Cut the tofu into about eight chunks.
  4. Put the garlic and tofu into the food processor.
  5. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil
  6. Add the spice mixture.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Blend until thick and smooth.
  9. Use the spatula to move the stuff into a jar or covered container.
Store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a week, but probably won't last that long.

In addition, it makes a great dip.

So how has it been so far?

... I ask myself as your proxy.

Well, so far it has been mixed. In order to get the results I need, Drs. Campbell (nutritionist) and Esselstyn (surgeon) say that I have to be animal protein-free for six months. I've been at this for just a month and have failed to maintain my dietary integrity four times.

It doesn't surprise me that they all were cheese related incidents. Cheese is harder for me to give up than meat. Having cheese around is like being constantly tormented by bacon. (You know, I never thought I'd actually write those words, like that, in a sentence.)

I didn't note the day I started, but I watched FOK on September 1, and within the next week I decided to give it a try. So a reasonable estimate for a start date is September 7.

Things went well for a couple of weeks, until temptation in the form of a container of blue cheese crumbles appeared on the refrigerator shelves in the middle of the night. It was, in hindsight, so stupid. I took whole grain bread and smeared some olive oil-based spread on it and made myself a blue cheese sandwich.

What can I say. It was late at night, I was lonely, and there she was all tempting and seductive in her blue and white gown. I should have just looked, it was a mistake to dance with her, and I certainly shouldn't have taken her back to my room and had my way with her.

Hmmm. Does the fact that I think about these food temptations in sexual or romantic motifs, say something about my relationship with food? Or maybe it's about my relationship with people. There's a wild and hairy thought ... a Vegan Hannibal Lechter. 

A few days later, a mozzarella appeared and was consumed with a a sauce of regret and guilt.

The last two incidents were truly accidents. Having lunch at a restaurant on two different occasions, I ordered two different vegetarian sandwiches that turned out to have a small amount of cheese hidden in them that I did not detect until it was too late. I swear it's mostly true. Would I lie to myself? Don't answer that. Good grief, I'm arguing between alter-egos.

Either I have more problems than I thought or it's the effect of posting before my caffeine level has been optimized.

Oct 6, 2011

Being aware

Thoughtlessness can be as big an enemy as temptation.

Earlier today I was at the local market and I had a craving for olives. I allow myself this indulgence rarely because of the amount of salt, but I was in the mood for a treat. There were four containers at the olive bar; Kalamata, green, a mixture of the two, and a mixture of the two with cubes of feta cheese. I was about to start filling a plastic tub from the last-mentioned container ... the spoon was over the tub ... when I realized, "that's cheese, I can't eat cheese!"

This is so hard for me.

But it's also weird.

It's making me think about these foods, and question myself. Do I really like them? Or is there something else going on? Am I just programmed for certain behaviors?

I used to travel extensively and it was a point of pride to eat whatever I was offered. Thousand year eggs, stuffed cuttlefish, umi, barbecued goose necks, I took them all in my stride. I wasn't as aggressively omnivorous as Andrew Zimmern, but, by golly I never refused what was on offer. I used to consider that a virtue ... perhaps it's time to rethink that.

Chickpea curry a la garbage

This is a variety of dish that I call a garbage curry. It is a one pan, one rice-cooker recipe which makes for fast work and easy clean-up. The recipe below shows what I had on hand tonight, but it is meant to help clean out the bits and pieces so it will vary each time I cook it.

Today I was lucky, I had the last eggplant and a couple of tomatoes from the garden. The tomatoes were about to get too ripe, so they had to be used right away.


  • Rice cooker
  • High-sided skillet or large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Knife (I use a Chinese cleaver which I will post about another time.)
  • Small saucepan
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 medium eggplant
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt
  1. Slice the eggplant into rounds and each round into quarters, early in the day.
  2. Put the eggplant into a bowl, salt it lightly, and cover it.
  3. When it's dinner time, drain the liquid from the bowl.
  4. Put the rice and stock into the rice cooker and start it. (I like to add a little turmeric to the rice for color, odor, and flavor.)
  5. Put the skillet or large saucepan on the burner set to between Medium Low and Medium.
  6. Add about two tbs or a couple of glugs of olive oil.
  7. Smash and mince the garlic. 
  8. Toss it in the skillet.
  9. Mince the onion.
  10. Toss it in the skillet.
  11. Stir a bit.
  12. Put the eggplant in the skillet.
  13. Stir occasionally until it starts to darken
  14. Core the tomatoes and chop them.
  15. Toss them in the skillet.
  16. Stir.
  17. Stir in the curry powder.
  18. Stir in the chickpeas.
  19. Add 1/4 cup of water.
  20. Cover and reduce heat to Barely Simmer.
  21. When the rice is done check the skillet. If it is too liquid let it continue to cook uncovered until it thickens.
  22. Put rice on plate.
  23. Put curry on top of the rice.
  24. Add a dollop of mango chutney if you want.
I like my food spicy so you may want to experiment with the amount of curry. I purposely left out of this recipe that I also add about 1/4 tsp of cayenne powder or crush a dried bird pepper into it to increase the heat.

ETA (Edited To Add)
Oh dear, I forgot to mention the use for the small saucepan. It sits on the counter near the cutting board and all of the vegetable trimmings and leftover pieces go into it. then I add some filtered water and put it on a burner set to Barely Simmer for a day or two then use the resulting stock for rice or soup. Don't use tomato, eggplant, or bell pepper stems for this. But scrag ends and other bits and pieces are fine. Carrot greens and radish greens can go into this pot, but, as I'll tell you later, there are better ways to use them.

The title of the blog

I need to explain the blog title.

I live in a house with my wife and son. Both of them are carnivores and view vegetables other than potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, and lettuce with a kind of superstitious and horrified dread.

So I cook for one.

And because this is a choice I have made, because I am not sickened or disgusted by meat, eggs, and dairy, every day, every meal is a temptation. I can't eat alone without being accused of being anti-social. I can't sit at dinner without using all my will-power to not reach for the platter of steak, or the roasted chicken.

I open the fridge to take out some carrots for my lentil stew, and there sits the cheddar ... I can almost hear it saying, "Come on, you know you want me. What could it hurt?"

My wife cooks too much meat for each meal and I hate waste. In times past, I'd eat all the leftovers just to keep them from being thrown out. Today I had to steel myself against the sight of half a pound of sirloin tips, temptingly left (no doubt as a test I was to fail) from the previous day's dinner were quietly slid into the garbage container.

It has only been two weeks and I know it will get easier, but it is going to be a solitary path.

Why does this blog exist?

This is to document an experiment in eating only foods from plants. I don't want to call it Vegan or Vegetarian because there is a lot of emotional and spiritual freight in those terms. This experiment has nothing to do with morality, it has everything to do with my health. I hope that this will document a successful change in my habits resulting in better health and perhaps help and inspire others to make the same trial.

A year ago I had a heart attack.

I was lucky, I figured it out quickly. It was early evening and I was walking back to my study to write, when I got the sensation of having swallowed a lump of food without chewing it. It felt about the size of a radish. I sensed that it might be a heart attack, but I sat down at the computer and quickly Googled the symptoms to persuade myself that I was wrong. By the time I realized that I was being a fool, the lump had grown in pain to the size of an orange. My wife called 911, and I got trundled off in an ambulance to the great entertainment of the neighborhood.

A few days later I was home again with two brand-spanking new stents in my coronary arteries and a stern admonition that I had to change my ways.

I did, carefully checking sodium levels, eschewing butter and fat in favor of olive oil, going to the gym and taking the forty-leven daily pills that were intended to keep my blood flowing nicely. I was highly motivated to not have that huge damn tube shoved up through my wrist again.

And so it went until a couple of months ago. When I heard about a documentary called Forks Over Knives. The film documents how two doctors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritionist, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a surgeon, doing separate research, reached the same conclusion ... animal-based protein is bad for the heart, and probably bad for other things as well. I was skeptical, but interested, and wanted to see it but missed the local showings. Lucky for me it turned up on a popular but overpriced streaming video site (okay NetFlix), a few weeks ago.

I wasn't totally persuaded by their arguments, but it seemed as if the weight of the evidence was on their side of the scales. As someone who had grown up in an Adelle Davis governed home, I know enough about nutrition to discount the claims that vegetarian diets lead to malnutrition. So I decided that it couldn't hurt me to try the experiment. At worst, I'd be bored by my food, at best, if the FOK claims were true, I'd be much healthier and might even be able to cut back on the small fortune that is required for my monthly prescriptions.

It took me until today to realize that it would be a good thing to document my progress, my recipes (I do love to cook), my temptations, and my mood.

That's what this blog is for.