Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vegan (Thus Pareve) Potato Kugel

I'm in DC now! DC is awesome. I will write up an update once I've got time for the very long update that will be required.

I went to a vegan friend's apartment last Friday night for Shabbos dinner with two other friends of mine from various aspects of my life. I made a vegan potato kugel for the occasion. Ashley (the vegan) liked it a lot and wanted the recipe, so here it is!

I also made a non-vegan kugel earlier in the week for some other friends and for my family, the recipe I use is pretty much this one, which I wrote up last year, except I've started adding the rosemary, thyme, pepper, and marjoram.

Vegan Potato Kugel
based on my own recipe for unvegan potato kugel, which is based on my grandmother's recipe


4-5 potatoes, peeled
1 large onion, diced
2/3 cup olive oil + 2 tbsp for frying + 1 tbsp for greasing (canola oil also works)
2/3 cup water
~1 1/2 cups flour (a bit unsure on this measure)
1 1/2-2 tsp rosemary (you should have plenty of rosemary)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9 x 13 shallow cake pan with the oil.

2. Grate the potatoes into thin strips. I grate by hand. Don't be a wuss.

(I recommend keeping the gratings until you use them submerged in water, since that prevents oxidization and your kugel turning gray.)

3. Fry the diced onion in the oil until the pieces are just soft. Set aside and cool.

4. In a bowl, mix together the onions, potato, olive oil and spices until the oil coats the potato.

5. Add the water.

6. Mix in the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the "batter" around the potato and onion is not completely thin. You may need more flour. Add the baking powder with one of the batches of flour.

(The flour makes up for the missing egg)

7. Pour into the pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top of the kugel is brown and crisp. Remove from oven, and wait until it is a bit cooler before cutting into it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One year of blogging

Thanks for reading folks. Fun stats:

4770 page views
13 readers a day
with the highest readership from the US, Russia!?!?!, Chile, Israel, and China

Your favorite posts:
-Ten Reasons I Love Being Jewish on Christmas
-Overfatty Cakes
-The Very Not Kosher Banquet
-All the Michigan Legislators
-Slutty Brownies, Part II

Most of you come off my Facebook, as expected.

44% of you use Chrome, and 29% use Firefox.

It's been great! I have another, long-as-hell post in the works, so look for it tomorrow or later this week!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

All the Michigan legislators

Vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina va-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-gina.
(These should be said in different voices.)


Wait. What is a reasonably religious gay guy doing immodestly screaming things about the sexual organs of ladies?

(Vagina vagina vagina)

Well, ladies and gentlemen,

It has something to do with this idiocy: a female legislator in Michigan's state house was silenced for mentioning the word "vagina" in an abortion-law debate.

Most of the silencers were men (and Republicans). It seems that they can't handle the word. They said it was to protect kids that such so-called lack of politesse was barred. But I think it's different.

If you can't say it, you shouldn't put a law on it. You can't even write the law then.

Here's what I say:

All the Michigan legislators
based on the song by Beyonce Knowles



All the Michigan legislators, all the male legislators
All the Michigan legislators, all the male legislators
All the Michigan legislators, all the male legislators
All the male legislators

Now put your pens down
Up in the House, we just heard a word, she’s doing a good lil’ thing
Decided to talk and you want her to walk
‘cause she talked ‘bout the ring

She said VAGINA yes a VAGINA
It’s a talk about abortion law
We all were born, we all came from one
It’s a totally clinical word

‘Cause if you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Don’t be mad once you hear that she says it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Don’t be mad once you hear that she says it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it

She’s standing outside, you want her to hide,
Because she said a scawey wowd’
What a lass, she’s got sass,
‘cause she hits your BS

She needs no permission, did we mention
That the Constitution grants free speech
‘cause it’s her body, it’s reproductive law,
Don’ go round acting like her Paw

‘Cause if you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Don’t be mad once you hear that she says it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Don’t be mad once you hear that she says it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Don’ go around, claimin’ innocence
Fo’ the kiddies down below
They gotta hear, they gotta know,
‘coz otherwise STDs will grow

If you don’t have the nerve to say
The things that gotta be said,
Go down to the homestead, lie down in bed,
Maybe you’ll stop seeing red

All the Michigan legislators, all the male legislators
All the Michigan legislators, all the male legislators
All the Michigan legislators, all the male legislators
All the male legislators

Now put your pens down

‘Cause if you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Don’t be mad once you hear that she says it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Don’t be mad once you hear that she says it
If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t put a law on it
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A recipe that actually is not fatty: Version 2 of Dill Vegetable Soup!

...and I prove to you that I can make things that are not horrendously fatal to your figure.

I was originally going to write another post, but I put up the picture of this soup on Facebook and got two requests from Aaron B. and Nicki to write this recipe up, so here it is.

It's a vegetarian (and if you skip the noodles, vegan) variation on ye olde Jewish/Eastern European soup, with that ever-classic flavoring: dill!

I've actually made another variety of this soup before for Passover, which can be found here. The vegetables used in this one are completely different, and is written for less broth.

Dill vegetable soup with noodles


Dill Vegetable Soup with Noodles


I use the classic Jewish measures of the eyeball and the palm of my hand for many, many recipes, so once again, all measurements are approximate.


2 medium-large onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 turnip, peeled and chopped or diced
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped (I chop them thick and hearty)
3 tbsp olive oil, keep a bit more on hand just in case
water
2 tsp. rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 1/2-2 cups dill (about two fistfuls), de-stemmed (sprigs OK) and chopped lightly, plus extra for garnish if desired
thin egg noodles

1. In a medium-large stock pot (any normal stock pot should do), saute the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are soft.

2. Add the parsnips, carrots, and turnip, and cover the entire thing in water (I estimate about 4 quarts, but do it until there seems to be 3-4 times more water by volume than solid.)

3. Bring the vegetable-water to a boil while covered.

4. Once the water is boiling, add the rosemary, bay leaf, salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, and dill. Cover and let simmer for up to an hour, until the flavor is very vegetable- and herb- rich. Forty-five minutes worked fine for me. If the soup is not flavored enough, add more spices in the following proportion: 3 parts salt, 2 parts rosemary, 1 part pepper.

5. In the meantime, cook the thin egg noodles separately, and set aside. I recommend using good old Jewish lokshen, although I imagine a thin pasta could work well. Do not cook the noodles in the soup; otherwise, the soup may become overly starchy. This rule is good in general for starchy soup insertions.

6. Remove the soup from the heat, and serve with the noodles and, if you want, dill for garnish. If you want, you can serve it without the vegetables, but I recommend serving it with the vegetables, particularly if you get awesomely fresh parsnip.

(The soup also apparently works well for a stock, my sister has already used some of the broth to cook some zucchini.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On return

I haven't been back "home" in New York for about five and a half months. Since heading off for university two years ago, it's the longest time I've spent away from New York. Actually, it's the longest time I've spent away from the Tri-State Area...ever.

Nothing special, I know, not in comparison to the rest of my family: from my mother's semi-annual trips to her homeland, to my father's lack of ties to his rather faraway homeland (South Africa), all the way to the fact that my grandfather has not been in his hometown, a dusty outpost in a rural patch of South African grassland, since 1953. One hundred and sixty days: absolutely piecemeal!

Things have changed. Some of these shifts are obvious: for example, the trees were bare when I left, and now branches are covered in layers of green leaves.

Some of the shifts are less obvious.

I'm used to these shifts in general - every visit to the family brings more - but this visit is really making me ask whether it's my tastes and preferences that have changed, or actual things.

The answer is "a lot of both."

I will not wander off into the clich├ęd and sanctimonious discussions of how I have changed. Other than some awkward moments of confusion at Shabbat services, not much of these shifts are worthy of lengthy discussion right now.

But some little things have altered in the five and a half months I have been gone. Besides the obvious answers of "family dynamic," "nature," and "who has what going on," smaller things have shifted. Examples include:

* The billboard advertisements have gotten a bit more kawaii and "cute" - including one of my personal pet peeves, "happy to be eaten" animals. One advertisement for the Oyster Bar restaurant in New York - a rather tourist-oriented and most kashrut-challenged seafood establishment - encourages potential patrons to partake of fresh Dutch herring. How so? With a line of smiling, grinning fish in an airport security line for an x-ray, on their way to plates in New York, wearing little I Love New York shirts. It is almost as every herring is a suicidal little thing. And don't get me wrong, I love herring - it's the reason I will never, ever, ever be fully vegetarian. But this display is a little ... much.

I have not seen ads like this before as much. Just more...mundane, less noticeable ads.

(OK, I sound sanctimonious and pretentious, yes. Due to absurdly obvious and common graffiti, posting a picture of said advertisement would involve multiple modesty failures.)

* The cheap deli coffee has become slightly stronger. The Midwest has converted me into quite the coffee drinker over the past two years; the drink actually has a separate line when I'm doing my budgeting. Back here, I drink a mix of fancy coffee as a treat to myself (my post-Shabbat snack was an Italian cappuccino and a pastry) and deli coffee to keep me going. Any good New Yorker will know what I am describing: the cheap cup-o'-joe that every bodega, deli, and grocery in the region can sell you for a delightfully low price, providing caffeine if not, necessarily, a quality beverage experience.

It's strengthened a bit. Of the seven cups I've gotten in the past few days (don't judge, now), six have been significantly stronger than my last visit (December 2011, which was largely sustained courtesy of $1 medium coffees) or the visit before (Thanksgiving, including a 6am airport sprawl courtesy of a 24-hour bodega's percolator).

I wonder what the reason for the stronger coffee is. Clients who have spent too long up, admiring the sunset over dinner? Longer hours for worse pay (more likely)? Secret changes in instant coffee made by the manufacturer?

* The public transport system has become less class-diverse. This change has probably been happening for several years - since well before I moved to Chicago in September 2010 - but it has been most noticeable on this visit and the last visit.

The dynamic before was a little bit more diverse: one would see thousand-dollar handbags brushing against student backpacks, jostling little grandmas with Chinese newspapers in the line of vision of young men in construction workers' garb, over whose shoulders I would peer to check which transfer would be quickest.

Is it just me, or are there fewer suits and ladies of leisure on the subway now? I went to visit a friend on the Upper East Side - New York's chichi quarter - on Thursday afternoon, and not many people got off at 86th Street. I saw fewer telltale signs of wealth on the subway.

One would be tempted to blame the economic crisis for this, but I saw quite a number of those markers as soon as I emerged onto Lexington Avenue. The handbags, the sunglasses, the obscenely expensive shampoo advertisements.

I would have thought that the crisis would have inspired a certain frugality in New Yorkers - I would see more Prada on the 6 - but maybe there is a recovery. Or a retreat. On verra.


(It should be noted for those of you unfamiliar that New York has the highest Gini index in the country. So much for Democratic Party politics, it is a limousine liberalism that one finds here.)



Friday, June 1, 2012

Brownie Recipe - Because this is Now a Blog for Making Other People Fat

I am officially determined to cause a spike in business for the gyms and Jenny Craigs of Chicago by my cooking alone.

My friend Myra wanted to see my brownie recipe - as in, when they're not encased in cheesecake or on top of cookie dough and Oreos.

So here it is! Shabbat shalom u'mvorach!

Brownies! And me.



Flexible Brownies
adapted off the Smitten Kitchen recipe


7-oz. chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
3 tbsp water
1/3 c. milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease a 9x13 baking pan.

2. Melt the chocolate into the butter and water in a saucepan until you have a thick ganache. Set aside to cool. You should slice the butter into bits for quicker and more consistent melting.

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ganache and milk until well blended.

4. Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract.

5. Add the flour and sugar in equal proportions, about 1/4th at a time. That's a 1/2 cup sugar and a 1/4 + bit cup flour each time. Add the baking powder with one of the additions. Stir until consistent each time.

6. Pour into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out only with a few crumbs. For the best result, do not bake until a clean toothpick. Set aside and cool before cutting and serving.